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April 17, 2000

Transaction Analysis

March 23-31, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released RHP Tom Candiotti. [4/1]

Purchased the contracts of LHP Kent Mercker and SS Benji Gil. [4/2]

Activated LHP Jarrod Washburn from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Edmonton. [4/9]

Optioned RHP Mike Fyhrie to Edmonton; placed SS Gary DiSarcina on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/9 (bruised thumb); activated RHP Ramon Ortiz from the DL; purchased the contract of IF Keith Johnson from Edmonton; transferred CF Mike Colangelo from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/10]

Talk about happy news for the sad-sack Angels. I'm impressed that they handed rotation spots to all three of Scott Schoeneweis, Jason Dickson and Ramon Ortiz, when grisly veteran alternatives like Kent Mercker and Tom Candiotti were available. Unfortunately, we know Dickson is coming off of a major injury and Ortiz has been badly overused in his brief career, so chances are that Mercker and eventually a healthy Tim Belcher will get opportunities at some point.

While I usually gripe about how unnecessary a 12-man pitching staff is, in the case of the Angels' roster, we're talking about the 25th man on potentially the worst team in the league. In that case, why not carry a Rule 5 pick like Derek Turnbow? Like almost every Rule 5 pick, he'll come up with an "injury" by the middle of May (any takers for "tendinitis?"), and they can use the roster spot however they need to. When the team cools off, Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia can offer the annual excuse that it was all because Gary DiSarcina got hurt (again); it's almost handy that it happened early.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed RHP Matt Mantei on the 15-day DL (tendinitis). [4/2]

Waived SS Luis Ordaz; optioned RHP Vicente Padilla to Tucson; assigned RHP Jim Corsi to Tucson. [4/3]

With Matt Williams and Andy Fox on the disabled list, you can understand why Danny Klassen has been kept around as Lenny Harris's token platoon mate, with Hanley Frias in the real utility-infielder role. But if and when first Fox and then Williams get healthy, the Snakes should finally realize that carrying two career pinch-hitters like Harris and Greg Colbrunn isn't a great idea. They nearly blew it in camp, dickering over whether or not to demote David Dellucci. The injuries give them opportunity to wake up from their unfortunate infatuation with Harris by exposing him to the harsh light of regular playing time; that ought to send him scuttling back to the shade of the bench.

The happy news? That Byung-Hyun Kim got to crack an otherwise ancient bullpen. Two years from now, the Big Unit, Brian Anderson and Kim may be the only guys left from this staff in Arizona. Or even pitching professionally.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Optioned OF George Lombard and RHP Ismael Villegas to Richmond, and RHP Jason Marquis to Greenville (Double-A); assigned 1B Brian Hunter, IF Steve Sisco and Cs Toby Rumfield and Jeff Horn to Richmond; placed RHPs John Smoltz, Rudy Seanez and David Cortes and LHP Odalis Perez on the 15-day DL; purchaed the contracts of DH Bobby Bonilla, OF Trenidad Hubbard and RHP Greg McMichael. [4/1]

Placed RF Brian Jordan on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage); purchased 1B/LF Brian Hunter from Richmond. [4/8]

There's already been plenty of attention paid to the Braves' willingness to weave several very young players into a mostly veteran roster. The problem is going to be when push comes to shove. When John Rocker comes off of his suspension and Steve Avery pitches himself into playing shape, who is John Schuerholz going to cut, guys like Greg McMichael or John Burkett, or people like Bruce Chen or Luis Rivera? We'll learn a lot about how intentional this youth movement is before the month is out.

Brian Jordan's injury highlights a problem the Braves share with the Yankees, and a reason why neither of them may show up in the World Series this year: lousy depth. While pretending that picking up Wally Joyner and signing Bobby Bonilla fixes the problem, the Braves will be much better off if George Lombard has a good month or two in Richmond. Since both Jordan and Reggie Sanders only tend to get hurt in years without Clinton scandals, Bobby Cox's crew is going to need a ready Lombard or a good trade.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Assigned OF Wayne Kirby and PH Derrick May to Rochester; placed C Greg Myers on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of C Willie Morales from Rochester; outrighted RHP Richard Negrette to Rochester. [4/2]

Placed RHP Mike Timlin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/2 (abdominal strain); recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Rochester. [4/7]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jose Mercedes from Rochester; optioned 2B Jerry Hairston to Rochester. [4/9]

Some fights are symbolic of the Big Problem, which is the case with the demotion of Jerry Hairston. There comes a time when the man calling the shots has to acknowledge that he screwed up. Boss Angelos has to admit he smacked down the samoleans for the wrong player. He has to concede that while Delino DeShields might make a very nice utility man, getting 300 PAs while playing some second base, third base and left field, Hairston should be this team's second baseman.

Speaking of ill-considered decisions to carry 12 pitchers, why are the Orioles carrying three left-handed relievers? Chuck McElroy has been underused in the early going, and while both B.J. Ryan and Buddy Groom are useful, when do we say enough is enough? It's likely that Mike Hargrove is carrying baggage from last year with the Indians, when he had no useful left-hander in the pen; having three seems like nirvana by comparison.

You might argue that they need seven relievers to cover for a weak rotation. While I'm happy to see Calvin Maduro get a shot with his original organization, among him, the always-dubious Jose Mercedes and an overworked Sidney Ponson, chances are that the Orioles' middle relievers are going to have to carry a heavy load.

I'm sort of amused by the team's four-man bench. Jeff Conine will kill grass at first or third or either outfield corner; he's around to keep Calvin Pickering away while picking up the inevitable at-bats that will come with Will Clark's next injury. Rich Amaral can stand at three more positions than Conine, which sort of makes the whole short-bench concept work. He also gets to be the oldest pinch-runner in the league, because on this team, he's the closest thing to fresh legs this side of Hairston. Since Conine might pinch-hit for one of the middle infielders, Jesse Garcia gets to come in as a sub at second or short. And until Greg Myers heals, Willie Morales is this year's Mike Figga, a veteran minor leaguer getting service time; while he's doomed by Greg Myers's eventual return, it's nice to see him finally get a cuppajoe. Along with Creighton Gubanich and George Williams, Morales was one of the catchers who effectively lost out to both A.J. Hinch and Ramon Hernandez in the A's chain, and all of them have been good enough to deserve shots.

BOSTON RED SOX

Purchased the contract of Living Fossil Gary Gaetti from Olduvai Gorge. [4/3]

Signed RHP Derek Lowe to a four-year contract extension, with a team option for a fifth. [4/4]

Placed 3B John Valentin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/6, and RHP Bryce Florie on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/9; purchased the contract of RHP Rob Stanifer from Pawtucket; recalled 3B Wilton Veras from Pawtucket; transferred RHP Juan Pena from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/10]

Generally speaking, I've learned to cut Joe Kerrigan and Jimy Williams some slack on their choices for who goes into the rotation, but another spin with Pete Schourek at Tim Wakefield's expense? Plus Jeff Fassero? What, Frank Tanana said he didn't think he'd be ready?

That isn't to say the Red Sox aren't in an interesting situation, where they could mix and match starters by opponent, while playing the roster-shuffle games the Duke excels at. Starting those token lefties against teams like the Yankees or A's makes plenty of sense, as long as Williams spots Wakefield and someone like Jin Ho Cho or Tomo Ohka or some mystery Siamese righthander we probably don't even know about yet against teams like the White Sox or the Blue Jays.

John Valentin is hurt, and Gary Gaetti doesn't play third base? Even over Manny Alexander? While a lot of teams make noise about how some veterans "know how to win," what is it that these two stars from last year's 95-loss Cubs know how to do? Time for Peter Cushing to storm the clubhouse, armed with a couple of wooden stakes and a ruthless determination to exterminate the living dead.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned C Jose Molina to Iowa; recalled 1B Julio Zuleta from customs. [4/3]

Signed RHP Bobby Ayala to a contract with Iowa. [4/4]

Activated OF Glenallen Hill from the DL; optioned 3B Cole Liniak and LHP Danny Young to Iowa; purchased the contract of LHP Daniel Garibay from Iowa. [4/7]

Recalled LHP Scott Downs from Iowa; optioned 1B Julio Zuleta to Iowa. [4/9]

Optioned RHP Matt Karchner to Iowa; recalled RHP Ruben Quevedo from Iowa. [4/11]

Hey, it was a good week for Cubs management types to scrape some egg off their faces. Don Baylor's inspired choice of Danny Young might have been a bid for self-anointed geniusdom. After all, Young has yet to pitch all that well at Double-A despite the fact that he's nearing 30, but if the skipper says he saw a reason to keep him, he must be good, right? Once pressed into major-league action, Young reminded people why he hadn't been the terror of the Southern League. In his place, Cubs fans get treated to Mexican League vet Daniel Garibay, which is sort of fun, except it means nobody in the organization noticed how badly carrying three left-handers in the pen had already hurt this team.

Meanwhile, Ed Lynch gets to shrug off the Karchner-for-Garland debacle by showcasing the prize from last year's deal with the Braves. The good news is that Ruben Quevedo will be up to pitch in middle relief; the bad news is that he's still in the running to out-heft "big" leaguers like Dennis Reyes. More good news is that Don Baylor is fulminating about how he might cut Brian Williams if Williams doesn't pitch well, which makes sense considering that he's not appreciably better or worse than Bobby Ayala.

More important than any of this is Hill's return. The Cubs need one of the game's best pinch-hitters to capitalize on the few big-inning opportunities they're going to generate.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned RHP Chad Bradford to Charlotte; purchased the contract of LHP Kelly Wunsch from Charlotte. [4/2]

The White Sox are slowly coming to terms with last September's big mistake: knocking Mario Valdez off of the 40-man roster to make room for perpetually crummy fill-in pitcher Tanyon Sturtze. Sturtze has flubbed every shot at a major-league job he's ever gotten, only ever pitching well in the final game of last season. While you never know with pitchers, and while he's never been up for a full season, Sturtze is not exactly the kind of guy you go out of your way for to make space for on your 40-man roster. Top that off with the current injuries to Frank Thomas, Greg Norton and Jeff Liefer, and the burden of carrying 12 pitchers, and it looks more and more like the Sox still need a left-handed hitter who can play some first base, especially since none of Thomas, Norton or Liefer do either well enough to want to play them.

It isn't often that a team screws up a roster spot to make room for a mop-up man this badly. The really silly aspect of it is that if Sturtze is cut, it will probably be Bradford who comes up, and he was on the 40-man roster all along. This was a roster screwup you'd normally expect from Lou Gorman, not Ron Schueler.

CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired SS Juan Castro from the Dodgers for a PTBNL, and assigned him to Louisville. [4/1]

Placed 1B Sean Casey on the 15-day DL; recalled 1B D.T. Cromer from Louisville. [4/2]

Acquired RHP Manny Aybar from the Rockies for LHP Gabe White. [4/7]

Signed LHP Norm Charlton to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Louisville. [4/9]

It isn't often that Jim Bowden gets a prospect for a major leaguer, which is why the Manny Aybar move is pretty interesting. The Reds are talking about how they'll want to eventually move Aybar out of the pen and back to starting. How many of these projects are they carrying? They've said the same thing about Dennis Reyes, and he's still in the pen, while Ron Villone is in the rotation. They said the same thing last year about Scott Williamson, and he's still in the pen. While I don't disagree with the idea, and while I think Aybar is a project worth taking on, he may be in the pen longer than he expects. The factors in favor of his getting back into the rotation? Denny Neagle, Steve Parris and Pete Harnisch aren't the most durable veteran starters around, and Villone isn't a great bet to stick as a starter.

As for losing Sean Casey for a couple of weeks, while it hurts, it does give the Reds time to play Michael Tucker and Alex Ochoa in left field while Dmitri Young plays first base. Best of all, it means keeping Hal Morris, if not exactly where he belongs (retired, or the next best thing, playing for the Devil Rays), at least off of the field.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Optioned 3B Russ Branyan and SS John McDonald to Buffalo; assigned C Jesse Levis, OF Mark Whiten and RHP Mark Watson to Buffalo. [4/1]

Signed RHP Scott Sanders to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Buffalo. [4/2]

Signed C Bobby Hughes to a minor-league contract. [4/3]

Accepted Rule 5 pick RHP Jared Camp back from the Marlins. [4/7]

Signed RHP Chad Ogea to a minor-league contract. [4/12]

A pretty good example of a team with too many choices and not enough roster spots. I like the Tribe's bench: Enrique Wilson for second base, shortstop and third base; a fourth/fifth outfielder platoon of Jacob Cruz and Alex Ramirez; and Einar Diaz to catch. When Richie Sexson plays first base, Cruz or Ramirez can get playing time in left field as well, leaving every position covered.

But what's the goal? To carry two mop-up middle men in Scott Kamieniecki and Bobby Witt? You don't want to bump either of them into the rotation, and Kamieniecki isn't durable enough to count on as a long reliever for an entire season in the first place. Admittedly armed with hindsight, now that they have Chad Ogea as well as Scott Sanders in Buffalo, they're covered as far as having a veteran sixth starter. It looks like John Hart has drawn the wrong conclusions from last year's pitching staff meltdown, and it's unlikely that pitching coach Dick Pole would stand by and let that happen the way Phil Regan did.

At least nabbing Bobby Hughes makes sense; he's a step up from Chris Turner to caddy for Einar Diaz when that three-week warranty on Sandy Alomar's knees expires.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed RHP Jerry DiPoto on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

Optioned OF Angel Echevarria and RHP Rich Croushore to Colorado Springs. [4/4]

Acquired LHP Gabe White from the Reds in exchange for RHP Manny Aybar. [4/7]

Placed OF Jeffrey Hammonds on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/4 (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Rich Croushore from Colorado Springs. [4/10]

Well, love it or hate it, the Rox are going to do things differently just about any way you slice it. Nabbing taterrific Gabe White is going as extreme an example of this as you're going to get: Dan O'Dowd is obsessed with having pitchers who control the strike zone, which is good, but when it's someone who gives up close to two home runs per nine innings...well, that's what I call a serious commitment to scientific curiosity. At least White's already been pitching in one of the better home run ballparks in the game, so he should know something about being careful.

While we all knew Hammonds was never going to stay healthy, I'm sort of disappointed that the best this team is going to put out in two outfield positions is the Tom Goodwin/Brian Hunter platoon in center field and the Darren Bragg/Terry Shumpert platoon in left. For as many semi-useful hitting-oriented outfielders drifting around, Dan O'Dowd might have helped himself out a bit more than this. It's one thing to count on the altitude to provide power, but besides Jeff Manto, there really isn't anyone with sock on the bench, and precious little in the lineup. Scaring up someone who can uppercut a few balls wouldn't hurt, except that the team is now carrying seven relievers, and doesn't trust David Lee for anything other than closer situations, which it doesn't trust him with, which means a roster spot is being wasted.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed IF Dave Berg on the 15-day DL and RHP Brian Edmondson on the 60-day DL; purchased the contracts of C Sandy Martinez and UT Chris Clapinski. [4/2]

Purchased the contracts of OF Mark Smith and RHP Ricky Bones; designated OF Derrick Gibson and RHP Jared Camp for assignment. [4/4]

Acquired C Paul Bako from the Astros in exchange for a PTBNL and cash. [4/11]

As badly designed as this roster is (no backup shortstop, inoffensive outfielders like Brant Brown and Danny Bautista), at least one mistake took less than two weeks to rectify. Western civilization is again safe from Sandy Martinez, as Dave Dombrowski figured out in ten days what it took Ed Lynch two years to learn: Martinez can't play. By nabbing Paul Bako from the Astros (who couldn't afford to carry three catchers), the Fish have a nice little platoon of Bako and Mike Redmond. That may not sound like much, but it's better than what a few teams in the NL run out there.

The fun add to the roster was Ricky Bones as a long reliever. While there's little reason to have any confidence in him on the mound, he does give the pen a bilingual veteran in the pen as an extra pitching coach of sorts. Given that they're carrying several young pitchers already, I can buy an argument that there's some value to having Bones around.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed OF Matt Mieske on the 15-day DL (back strain). [4/2]

Purchased the contracts of RHPs Doc Gooden and Maddux the Lesser from New Orleans. [4/3]

Traded C Paul Bako to the Marlins for a PTBNL and cash; recalled SS Julio Lugo from New Orleans. [4/11]

The good news is that trading Bako represents as ringing an endorsement of Mitch Meluskey as the organization could hand out after three throwing errors. The question still remains about what the Astros are going to do with the last spot on the roster: give it to Lugo, so that they have two shortstops on the roster, or bump Russ Johnson or Glen Barker, neither of who stand to get much playing time? Once they activate Scott Elarton and get back to eleven pitchers, they'll have a hard choice to make.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Assigned C Jorge Fabregas to their minor-league camp. [4/1]

Signed LHP Paul Spoljaric and 3B Kevin Orie to minor-league contracts. [4/3]

Claimed SS Luis Ordaz off of waivers from the Diamondbacks. [4/5]

Added SS Luis Ordaz to the active roster; outrighted IF Ray Holbert to Omaha. [4/6]

Some nice organizational-depth additions here. Orie can pick it at third base, and he's a better insurance policy for Joe Randa than someone like Kit Pellow. Ordaz is a nifty enough glove man that Muser should feel no hesitation about pinch-hitting for Rey Sanchez in a tight spot. If they decide to add a left-handed reliever to the big-league pen, Spoljaric is about as good a freebie as you could nab off of the waiver wire.

The problem with Spoljaric is what it's always been: he is not a situational left-hander, and he can't start. If you give him a more traditional middle-relief role, he'll be a valuable asset. If you keep trying to turn him into Jesse Orosco, you'll get bad work.

Unfortunately, the Royals already have a squeeze for spots on the pitching staff. Once Blake Stein heals, somebody from among Chad Durbin, Mac Suzuki, Chris Fussell and Dan Reichert will get bumped, and Spoljaric only adds to the pressure. I'm biased towards keeping all of the younger pitchers, and bumping Suzuki and Brad Rigby, because while everyone's always frightened of young pitchers and their growing pains, it isn't like we're talking about shoving aside even moderately useful veterans.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Traded SS Juan Castro to the Reds for a PTBNL. [4/1]

Assigned DH Geronimo Berroa to their minor-league camp. [4/3]

Optioned LHP Carlos Perez to Albuquerque; purchased the contract of DH Geronimo Berroa from Albuquerque. [4/7]

Placed RHP Gregg Olson on the 15-day DL (strained forearm); recalled LHP Jeff Williams from Albuquerque. [4/11]

Placed RHP Kevin Brown on the 15-day DL (broken pinky), retroactive to 4/9; recalled LHP Carlos Perez from Albuquerque. [4/12]

A month ago, I was skeptical that Davey was going to be able to fit his ace pinch-hitting platoon of Dave Hansen and Geronimo Berroa onto the bench, but he pulled it off. Having Jose Vizcaino and F.P. Santangelo available to play every position certainly helped.

Unfortunately, the rotation is a blur, since Orel Hershiser has gone from sixth starter to third for a week or two. Is Carlos Perez going to be the first player to invoke the mercy rule for his career? The pen is also something of a mess. Who needs three veteran right-handed setup men? Fortunately, that can go unanswered, because the chances are that Mike Fetters and Gregg Olson will never be on the roster at the same time.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP Juan Acevedo on the 15-day DL (weak shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Everett Stull from Indianapolis; transferred C Robinson Cancel from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/9]

I know it isn't nice to kick a team when it's down, but who thinks it's a good idea to end up with a bench without a left-handed bat that can get the ball out of the infield? I can understand reasons to have both Moutons, since one can run and field and one can hit, but carrying both Charlie Hayes and Sean Berry is redundancy at its worst.

While I'm as big a proponent of the idea that you can beat the bushes to come up with a semi-useful right-handed reliever, a pen that has to carry both Jim Bruske and Everett Stull has some pretty obvious problems, made only more obvious by a godawful rotation.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Purchased the contracts of DH Butch Huskey, 2B/SS Jason Maxwell and Cs Matt LeCroy and Marcus Jensen; placed LHP J.C. Romero on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

Signed 2B Jay Canizaro to a minor-league contract. [4/4]

While everything worked out great in terms of transactions and roster choices, count on Tom Kelly to keep moving at his own pace. Just because Matt LeCroy and David Ortiz are on the roster doesn't mean that they won't have to go through the same process Corey Koskie had to live through last year, where time gets made for nice guys like Ron Coomer.

At least LeCroy is sharing the job with Jensen, but it isn't like Jensen has that much more major-league experience (65 games over four years with four different teams). Jensen has the good catch-and-throw reputation, but LeCroy is going to be the team's mainstay behind the plate for years to come. They may as well get on with it, and split time no less than 2-1 in LeCroy's favor.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Claimed CF Terry Jones on waivers from the Yankees; optioned RHP J.D. Smart to Ottawa; assigned RHP Felipe Lira to their minor-league camp. [4/1]

Signed LHP Steve Kline to a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth. [4/2]

Placed RHP Tony Armas, LHP Graeme Lloyd and C Bob Henley on the 15-day DL. [4/3]

Sometimes the highs and lows of Felipe Alou's preferences hold an entertainment value unlike any other manager's. Alou ends up crafting a bench with idiosyncratic strengths: pinch-runners galore and three potential substitutes for Michael Barrett at third base and Jose Vidro at second base. Unfortunately, it comes with idiosyncratic weaknesses: between pinch-runner Terry Jones and Big Brother Wilton Guerrero, there isn't a backup outfielder worthy of the title.

The Expos seem to know it, since they're rumored to be interested in all sorts of fourth outfielders, but the weakness isn't crippling in itself. If Rondell White gets hurt, Milton Bradley will come up and play every day, so barring a return to last year's Manny Martinez insanity or an ill-fated commitment to play Vladimir's brother, they won't have a bad regular outfielder this year.

Lenny Webster has no business being on the roster once (or more appropriately, if) Bob Henley gets healthy. However, Webster's mysterious popularity in Montreal can be charitably interpreted to mean that Jeff Loria and David Samson are going to go out of their way to give the people what they want, as long as the people give the ownership that new stadium-to-be-named-later.

There isn't really any other spot for it, so here's my condolences to Graeme Lloyd on the loss of his wife. We can all take a moment to think about what that would be like for each of us. His absence made room for Matt Blank to make his major-league debut, but Blank will head back to Ottawa once Lloyd comes back.

NEW YORK METS

Claimed LHP Radhames Dykhoff off waivers from the Orioles and optioned him to Norfolk. [4/6]

Placed CF Darryl Hamilton on the 15-day DL (sprained foot); recalled LHP Eric Cammack from Norfolk. [4/7]

Optioned LHP Eric Cammack to Norfolk; recalled LHP Glendon Rusch from Norfolk. [4/8]

Signed SS Raffy Bournigal to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Norfolk; released IF Domingo Cedeno. [4/11]

Claimed LHP Anthony Shumaker off waivers from the Phillies and optioned him to Norfolk. [4/12]

What's important here is the loss of Slidin' Darryl Hamilton. On the one hand, it gives Benny Agbayani a stay of execution and having to shuffle off this mortal coil to the Virginia lowlands. But with Derek Bell and Rickey Henderson and Jay Payton around, will he get that much time against lefty pitching anyways? The real loss is that it makes the Mets' lineup even more right-handed, making them even more liable to be shut down by the Jon Liebers of the world.

Steve Phillips's fascination with all things left-handed seems to have taken a turn for the bizarre, as he nabs left-handed projects from other organizations left and left and left, because there's no right way about it.

Just to think of it: the Mets could replace Rey Ordonez with Raffy Bournigal, and for all intents and purposes the only thing they'd lose would be a few SportsCenter appearances.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Designated RHP Mike Buddie for assignment; released CF Ryan Thompson and IF Jason Bates. [4/2]

Placed 1B Nick Johnson, LHP Ted Lilly and RHP Luis de los Santos on the 15-day DL; purchased the contracts of OFs Roberto Kelly and Lance Johnson from Columbus; assigned C Chris Turner, RHP Darrell Einertson, 1B Jon Zuber and DH Felix Jose to Columbus; optioned RHP Domingo Jean to Norwich (Double-A). [4/3]

Placed 3B Scott Brosius on the 15-day DL (strained muscle - rib cage); recalled SS/3B Alfonso Soriano from Columbus. [4/5]

Between the injury to Scott Brosius and Bernie Williams's need to DH for a bit, the team's lack of depth got exposed early. The nicest spin to put on the Brosius injury is that it gives the Yankees an early trial with Alfonso Soriano at third; better now, so they can give themselves a sense for whether they'd need to make a move if Brosius went down for a longer stretch. But losing Brosius and Nick Johnson highlights the Yankees' need for another bat. No need to panic just yet; some team will be in trouble by June, looking to dump a 30-year-old hitter in the last year of his contract. The question is going to be whether the Yankees take that choice, or get daring and give Nick Johnson an early spin.

At least they've been spared the indignity of playing Lance Johnson. A list including names like names like Johnson, Turner, Jose and Zuber should be all the hint you need for how tough it will be for Columbus to contend, let alone supply the Yankees with replacements.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed OF Bo Porter to a minor-league contract. [4/8]

Activated RHP Doug Jones from the DL; designated RHP Scott Service for assignment. [4/9]

In both cases, the player made a conscious choice to remain in the organization, and for both, it's a good call. Porter can be reasonably sure of a callup if the A's keep seeing left-handed starters and Ryan Christenson continues to play his way off of the team, while Service can work on that changeup he was talking about in camp while waiting for one of several injury-prone relievers to break down.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHPs Curt Schilling and Jeff Brantley on the 15-day DL. [4/1]

Placed RHP Jason Boyd on the 15-day DL (stiff shoulder); recalled RHP Kirk Bullinger from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/4]

Placed RHP Mike Jackson on the 15-day DL; purchased contract of SS Tomas Perez from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; designated LHP Anthony Shumaker for assignment. [4/7]

Optioned RHP Kirk Bullinger to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; activated RHP Carlos Reyes from the DL. [4/12]

With Terry Francona's almost-unique ability to simultaneously overwork his rotation and his bullpen, you might buy into a 12-man pitching staff as a good idea. Desi Relaford's bad wheels, not to mention the predictable Mike Jackson breakdown, put what might be the inevitable "man, we need at least 14 pitchers" argument on hold for a few months,. The difference between a damaged Jackson and a wildly healthy (or is that healthily wild?) Wayne Gomes won't add up to much in the great scheme of things.

The Phillies' shortstop situation has me scratching my head, though. Alex Arias is a good enough offensive player to be more useful than just a utility infielder, but just as clearly he's not a great shortstop. Whatever his merits, Desi Relaford (and Tomas Perez, for that matter) has better range. When it comes to the argument of whether to play a good defensive player at a key defensive position, or to play the better hitter who might not be a useful glove man, I'll say there are two ways to skin the cat. Some people will argue that a team should start the good defensive player to help your starting pitcher over as many innings as possible, then use the hitter later on, as necessary. Earl Weaver usually followed this plan while carrying around Mark Belanger, while bringing in the somewhat more dangerous Lenny Sakata as needed.

But sometimes, a manager gets by with the idea that you can get three or four good at-bats from someone who can hit better than Belanger or Relaford, and then bring in that defensive replacement to help hold the lead you're supposed to have from scoring those runs. Davey Johnson used to do this with Howard Johnson, and is probably going to do it again with Kevin Elster for the time being. You could argue that the Phillies did it in 1987, when Luis Aguayo enjoyed that big-bopping season while Steve Jeltz spent time finishing the games. It would be fun to see Francona mix things up a bit--to play Arias when a flyball-prone pitcher starts--just to help his offense a bit, and because Relaford's chance of having a career as good as Steve Jeltz's is still up in the air.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed RHP Brad Clontz to a minor-league contract. [4/6]

When your team's right-handed relievers are a waiver-wire reclamation project like Mike Williams, the epically unlucky Jose Silva and punch-drunk Marc Wilkins, you're going to be in the market for a mediocre sidearmer like Clontz. Consistent right-handed relief has been a problem for the Bucs for years, and that isn't about to change.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHPs Alan Benes and Gene Stechschulte to Memphis; assigned 1B Eduardo Perez to their minor-league camp; outrighted LHP Mike Matthews to Memphis and placed LHP Scott Radinsky and RHP Matt Morris on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

While everyone is being sunny and optimistic, does anyone else not have a lot of confidence in a bench featuring Craig Paquette, Shawon Dunston and Thomas Howard? Or a bullpen built around five guys who've seen the waiver wire and Jesse Orosco? It's an interesting mix of veteran hombres, even given LaRussa's fondness for the chronologically challenged. There aren't even that many ex-Athletics on the team, but too many of them with any experience of the LaRussa A's are in their forties now, what with that being a whopping five years ago.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Assigned 1B/C John Roskos to their minor-league camp; optioned RHP Vicente Palacios to Las Vegas; placed OF Kory DeHaan on the 15-day DL (bruised knee); recalled 2B/OF David Newhan from Las Vegas; purchased the contract of 3B/1B Ed Sprague. [4/1]

Placed C Carlos Hernandez on the 15-day DL; recalled C Ben Davis from Las Vegas. [4/7]

Placed PH Dave Magadan on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of 1B/C John Roskos from Las Vegas; transferred LHP Randy Myers from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/11]

Can we even say the Padres are rebuilding? Rebuilding teams usually feature their own prospects, but the Padres only have three position players they've developed themselves, counting Tony Gwynn (the other two are Ben Davis and Wiki Gonzalez). The pitching staff features one Padre product, Matt Clement. That is not to say that Kevin Towers hasn't done a good job with a number of other people's prospects; it's about time someone like John Roskos finally gets a shot at a job doing what he can do (hit), while not having to do what he can't (catch). It is sort of sad that Ed Sprague has first dibs on the job of platooning with Klesko, but at least Roskos is getting more of a shot here than he did with the Marlins.

DeHaan is making an early appearance on the DL, even for a Rule 5 pick; he may not get a full-length rehab assignment right now, but he'll have to worry about one unless Czar Bud does something rash like suspend Al Martin for marital naughtiness. The challenge for Towers is going to be whether or not he can do more than just work well with other people's draft picks; this organization still has too much Mike Darr and Ray McDavid in the blood for anyone's taste. Sean Burroughs has to be more than just one good player, he needs to be the front end of a wave that doesn't look like it's there.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed OF Marvin Benard to a three-year contract extension. [4/5]

SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned RHPs Brett Tomko and Kevin Hodges and 2B/SS Carlos Hernandez to Tacoma; outrighted RHP Todd Williams to Tacoma; placed C Tom Lampkin on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of C Joe Oliver; designated CF Anthony Sanders for assignment. [4/2]

It's bad enough to get hosed in the Griffey deal in terms of talent, but Pat Gillick should have been able to anticipate that if Jack McKeon doesn't like an educated and opinionated young pitcher like Brett Tomko, Lou Piniella was guaranteed to hate him. All it took was Tomko's unwillingness to participate in Mt. Piniella's demands for bloody sacrifices at home plate to keep a beanball fracas going; Tomko wasn't willing to be Frankie Rodriguez.

Having already flubbed their chance to convert Tomko into Jim Edmonds, Gillick is rapidly being maneuvered into a situation where Tomko's value in trade is going to be less than it was a couple of months ago. The alternative is holding onto him just to throw him into this summer's rotation accidents after Piniella slags somebody, and Piniella's track record of burying the hatchet is almost as bad as his record of burying young starters.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed 3B Vinny Castilla and RF Jose Guillen on the 15-day DL; assigned C Pat Borders to their minor-league camp; purchased the contract of RHP Dave Eiland; signed RHP Billy Taylor to a minor-league contract; recalled LHP Jim Morris from Durham. [4/1]

Purchased the contract of 1B Herb Perry from Durham; designated IF Bobby Smith for assignment. [4/3]

Signed SS Ozzie Guillen; outrighted IF Bobby Smith to Durham; claimed SS Felix Martinez from the Phillies and assigned him to Durham; released SS Rafael Bournigal. [4/5]

Placed RHP Juan Guzman on the 15-day DL (shoulder tightness); purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Sparks from Durham. [4/8]

Optioned an incredulous OF Quinton McCracken to Durham, and activated the animated husk of SS Ozzie Guillen. [4/10]

Activated 3B Vinny Castilla from the DL; designated 1B Herbert Perry for assignment. [4/11]

Fired pitching coach Rick Williams; named Bill Fischer pitching coach; activated RF Jose Guillen from the DL, and optioned him to Durham. [4/12]

If there was any remaining question as to whether the D-Rays mistake experience for talent or skill, hauling in the moldering carcass of Ozzie Guillen answers it. The Rays claim a need for a player who can play shortstop to back up Kevin Stocker, a believable claim. But Ozzie's defensive skills are shot, as if they ever came back after his knee injury at all. His offensive skills are non-existent, and for someone who's been asked to bunt a lot over the course of a career, he may well be the worst bunting non-pitcher in the major leagues. A significant number of ex-teammates think he's blowhard, but he's playing the Van Slyke angle of amusing the media just enough to coax a "cagey veteran leader" moniker he'd never earn any other way. So where else does he belong, but balmy/barmy Florida?

Screw it, he isn't worth the time. Losing Juan Guzman is more important to the team in terms of what's going to be a much tougher fight for fourth place in the AL East than they probably initially anticipated. That they had him pitch at all, when he was obviously hurt, should put the credibility of the organization and its interest in running a responsible baseball franchise in question.

As if picking up Ozzie Guillen didn't already do that.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed LHP Justin Thompson on the 15-day DL (recuperating shoulder). [4/3]

Signed RHP Terry Mathews to a minor-league contract. [4/6]

Like several teams, the Rangers are going with a 12-man staff, and it's only going to get worse for them once Justin Thompson's ready to go. When that happens, Doug Melvin has his two mistake free-agent signings from the past two winters to shove aside: Darren Oliver and Mark Clark. Clark's obviously the more likely of the two to be traded. Barring injuries or some major ineffectiveness from one of the relievers with an option, somebody with some value is going to have to go.

I've credited some of the other 12-pitcher teams with having well-designed four-man benches, and the Rangers are no exception. Between Frank Catalanotto (who if he isn't hurt, is nearly a regular), Scott Sheldon and Chad Curtis, all the positions aside from catcher are covered by players who can hit. Add that to one of baseball's best backup catchers in Bill Haselman, and the Rangers have a relative embarrassment of riches and a petition to expand rosters to 27 or so.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned LHP Clayton Andrews to Syracuse; assigned LHP Eric Gunderson to their minor-league camp. [4/1]

Signed LHP Pedro Borbon Jr. to a two-year contract. [4/2]

While I'm about as enthusiastic about the Jays' chances to make some noise this year as anyone this side of Joe Sheehan, there are still problems here. Frank Castillo as fifth starter will hopefully last only as long as it takes for one of Clayton Andrews or Gary Glover or John Sneed to get ready, because nobody should hold their breath about Joey Hamilton's near-term prospects. They could always move Peter Munro back to starting, but with continuing concerns about the health of Kelvim Escobar and Chris Carpenter, the Jays are going to have to hope this is one of those rare 1993-type years in which Jim Fregosi doesn't frag his staff within the regular season.

The offensive depth is also a source of concern. Beyond a young and talented lineup, the bench has a Rule 5er who won't play (outfielder DeWayne Wise), two guys who can't hit (organizational soldier Chris Woodward and Alberto Castillo) and two guys who can but can't field (an aging Craig Grebeck, never to catch up to the opportunity that injury took from him and handed to Joey Cora years ago, and Marty Cordova). Gord Ash has been in cost-control mode, so a really good fourth outfielder might be a luxury he doesn't think he can afford, but if the Yankees have their depth concerns, so too do the Blue Jays.

One shame is that Tom Evans still looks like he would have been pretty handy to have around, to free up Tony Batista for some work at shortstop and second base, but that could just be me gnawing a bone I've worked over one too many times.

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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