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April 21, 2000

Transaction Analysis

April 18-19, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Acquired 2B/3B Javier Fuentes from the Red Sox for OF Garry Maddox Jr. [4/19]

Neither Javier Fuentes nor Garry Maddox Jr. are prospects. This is simply an exchange from depth; the Red Sox are short of true outfielders throughout their system, not just on the major-league level, while Fuentes will be the oldest infielder at A ball in the Snakes' chain.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated OF Brian Jordan from the DL; designated 1B Brian Hunter for assignment. [4/19]

Brian Jordan's return is good news, what with Reggie Sanders struggling badly and extended playing time sending Bobby Bonilla scuttling back to the bench. But Jordan's health is always going to be an issue, just as much as Sanders's will be, and while I like George Lombard a lot, he's hardly the same kind of fourth-outfielder option that J.D. Drew is for the Cardinals.

The interesting thing about an organizational soldier like Brian Hunter is that he isn't quite good enough for any other team to claim on waivers. He isn't old enough to attract the interest of Lou Piniella or the Orioles, and he can't really play anywhere other than first base, and how many teams want to make room on their 40-man roster to add a 32-year-old platoon pinch-hitter? Hunter can refuse this kind of assignment, but why do it? With the Braves, he's got a great shot at making the postseason roster, and it isn't like he's hurting his Hall of Fame chances by shuttling between their bench and Richmond. For the Braves, this is an added bonus in that they'll potentially have a better DH platoon in the World Series--if they get there--with Hunter and Wally Joyner, who is at least better than Keith Lockhart. While Bonilla and John Burkett can leave us shaking our heads, this is still an improved bench.

BOSTON RED SOX

Signed 3B/OF Freddy Garcia to a minor-league contract; acquired OF Garry Maddox Jr. from the Diamondbacks for IF Javier Fuentes. [4/19]

Besides being able to fill in adequately at third base if asked, Freddy Garcia has some right-handed sock and can play some outfield. All of this almost makes him a better choice than Marty Cordova would have been if Cordova hadn't been hosed over by the inane decision to let Gary Gaetti go home when he felt like it, instead of over the winter as 29 major-league teams had not-so-subtly hinted.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Activated DH Jeff Liefer from the DL; optioned him to Charlotte. [4/18]

Jeff Liefer still has no defensive value, but with injuries nagging Frank Thomas and Greg Norton, and the expected eventual move away from 12 pitchers, he'll probably be up after he gets some regular playing time. At whose expense? Probably the oft-lamented Tanyon Sturtze, although Scott Eyre's job security isn't so hot either.

CINCINNATI REDS

Activated 1B Sean Casey from the DL; purchased the contract of LHP Norm Charlton from Louisville; optioned LHP Hector Mercado and 1B D.T. Cromer to Louisville. [4/19]

Hector Mercado is asked to leave to encourage the optionless Dennis Reyes, and all so that the Reds can take a trip down memory lane. While I don't have much use for Charlton, he is coming off of his best season since Bob Dole lost, and that might be worth something. I could kvetch about the choice of keeping Hal Morris around over D.T. Cromer, but the difference in the talent in question isn't that big.

The problem with retaining these broken-down old warhorses is that if the Reds really do contend this year, somebody's going to have to go once the inevitable stretch-drive moves get made. I doubt Jim Bowden's got the stones to pull a Dan Duquette. If it would get him a win, the Duke would designate his mother for assignment. For all of the bitching and weeping over cutting Mark Portugal this spring, Bowden might be reluctant to cut somebody associated, even once upon a time, with doing this franchise some good.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed C Sandy Alomar Jr. on the 15-day DL (hamstring); purchased the contract of C Bobby Hughes from Buffalo. [4/19]

The Indians have to know this is going to happen, and still don't have anything better than Bobby Hughes to replace him with. As previously mentioned, this is still a step up from Chris Turner or Tyler Houston, and Hughes does give the Tribe a catcher with some limited sock to go with Einar Diaz, who has none.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed C Scott Servais on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18 (sprained ankle); recalled C Ben Petrick from Colorado Springs. [4/19]

This could easily turn out to be one of those "improve despite yourself" situations, sort of similar to Tony LaRussa's epic choice of Rob Nelson over Mark McGwire back in 1987, only to have to play McGwire once Nelson got hurt. That isn't entirely fair to Scott Servais, who unlike Nelson has had a decent career already. But the Rockies' offense needs real power, not just Larry Walker and some altitude-generated illusions. Petrick is the organization's lone prospect who can supply it. Unfortunately, he comes up during a road trip, so he won't have the advantage of Planet Coors helping him state his case for sticking around.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Named Rick Williams major-league scout. [4/18]

Flash back to the Expos of the early 1990s, when Dave Dombrowski's organization was famed for its talented collection of front-office and player-development people. People like Gary Hughes, Dan Duquette, Kevin Malone and Bill Stoneman were all destined to be on short lists for general manager jobs, but other people would become famous for their contributions: Indianapolis manager Tim Johnson and his pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan, as well as John Boles (who had previously worked with Dombrowski in the White Sox organization) and none other than ex-Devil Rays pitching coach Rick Williams.

You go through this list, and you can't help but find that some of these things are not like the others, some of these things just don't belong. Some of these people, like Kerrigan and the Duke and Hughes, are rightfully considered among the best in the business when it comes to coaching or GMing or scouting. But among the rest, you've got an interesting crew of baseball lifers, but not the same kind of talent.

I've hemmed and hawed about Dombrowski's place among his peers, and while it's clear that he once built a great front office that built a great Expos organization and later a solid Marlins organization, Dombrowski may well be a victim of his own success. He doesn't have Hughes any more, and the Duke nabbed Kerrigan as soon as he had the chance. While Dombrowski has some people he's familiar with, like Boles and now Williams, it will never be easy to assemble the kind of talent he once had around him, talent which in turn built his strong reputation.

It makes for an interesting contrast with the Yankees, where Brian Cashman is generally ridiculed for his peers because he's only one member of The Boss's organizational management team. Cashman deserves more credit for his role, while Dombrowski, shorn of his great supporting cast, deserves less.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed C Gregg Zaun on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/15 (sprained elbow); purchased the contract of C Jorge Fabregas from Omaha. [4/18]

There's nothing happy about this. The only thing Jorge Fabregas is good for is Brian Johnson's playing time, although at least Fabregas is a good catch-and-throw guy. The nicest spin I can put on this is that by getting to see an awful lot of Johnson and Fabregas, the Royals might be ready to hand Gregg Zaun a lot of playing time once he's ready to play.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Purchased the contract of LHP Mark Mulder from Sacramento; optioned RHP Luis Vizcaino to Sacramento. [4/18]

Sold the contract of LHP Terry Burrows to Orix of the Japanese Leagues. [4/19]

I'm not exactly busted up about ending the Ron Mahay-as-starter experiment quickly. While Mahay can pitch, his ability to start was far from established. Mark Mulder was clearly going to be in the rotation at some point this season, and everyone seemed pretty relaxed about it when he didn't make the Opening Day rotation. I think we all expect him to take his lumps, but like Rick Ankiel with the Cardinals, dumping a top prospect into the fifth slot of the rotation, potentially backed by plenty of run support, isn't such a bad way to work in a young starter.

The A's have to have one of the weirdest collections of desperate hombres you'll find in a major-league pen. You've got Mahay with his "scab" label, retread Mike Magnante, T.J. "They got me for McGwire" Mathews, reclamation project Jason Isringhausen, creaky old Doug Jones, and minor-league veteran Jeff Tam. Luis Vizcaino was the only prospect in the bunch, and he's probably better off starting for Sacramento so that the organization sorts out whether or not he'll eventually have to go to the pen.

The remaining six-pack is as clear an indication as you'll find that you can assemble a decent major-league bullpen about as easily as you can fill a sack of cats, and if any of them fall out, then they can decide whether or not Chad Harville or Bert Snow is ready.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/15 (shoulder inflammation); optioned RHP Marc Wilkins and LHP Chris Peters to Nashville; recalled RHPs Mike Garcia and Brad Clontz from Nashville; purchased the contract of RHP Jose Parra from Nashville. [4/19]

While losing Jason Schmidt isn't good news, this was a bullpen that needed shaking up. Schmidt's future has been the subject of debate: has he been pushed too hard too young, or not? The combination of never reaching his perceived potential and the workload he has shouldered so far has to be a source for concern as he enters the period of a career when you should normally expect a breakout. For the time being, it looks like the workload worriers have bragging rights.

In his absence, Jose Parra will step into the rotation after having made two nice starts for Nashville. He's coming off of a poor year in the Japanese Central League, but if Pat Mahomes can return to usefulness after coming up too young, there has to be a reasonable chance that Parra could be turned into something useful with Pete Vuckovich's help.

Retooling the pen was long overdue. Brad Clontz was almost never really gone, merely lost on an Arizona adventure for a couple of months, and the Bucs knew they had a sleeper in Mike Garcia. From the right side, the pen now features two guys who can pump gas in Garcia and Jose Silva, sidearmer Clontz for situational matchups and "closer" Mike Williams; the left-handers are Scott Sauerbeck and Jason Christiansen. That looks like a much stronger outfit than the one counting on the oft-injured Chris Peters and the oft-battered Marc Wilkins. Peters will get to pitch himself into shape as a starter; he could either break down completely or be ready to nab the fifth spot in the rotation in a month or two, but I wouldn't lay odds on one happening over the other.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Alan Benes to Memphis; recalled RHP Gene Stechschulte from Memphis. [4/19]

Alan Benes quickly demonstrated that he isn't capable of bouncing back physically between appearances, which has them reconsidering his move to the bullpen. The Cardinals are talking about eventually ramping him up to 100 pitches as a starter to see if they can reclaim a career for him. He might yet turn into a Mike Morgan five-inning starter, and while we all wish him well, don't bet on it working out any time soon

Gene Stechschulte now has bragging rights; he's one of the few organization super-closers who actually got to the major leagues, but it will only be until either Jesse Orosco or Scott Radinsky heals up.

TEXAS RANGERS

Purchased the contract of DH Mike Simms and placed him on the 60-day DL. [4/19]

A nice gesture by the Rangers, in that Simms's career is almost certainly over as he goes in for major surgery. By returning him to the 40-man roster, they're gifting him with service time and benefits.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Mike Schmidt,  Brian Fuentes,  Brian Cashman

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