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May 2, 2000

Transaction Analysis

April 28-30, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Claimed OF Scott Morgan off of waivers from the Indians and placed him on the 40-man roster; transferred OF Jeff DaVanon from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/28]

Optioned RHP Lou Pote to Edmonton; recalled LHP Mike Holtz from Edmonton. [4/29]

Placed RHP Jason Dickson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/29 (strained hip flexor). [4/30]

The sad news is that losing Jason Dickson may create the opening for Tim Belcher that should herald the Angels' drive for the basement after a nice little start. Fortunately, Dickson's injury isn't arm-related, and after Belcher flops and/or Ken Hill breaks down again, he should be able to reclaim his rotation spot.

At first glance, nabbing Scott Morgan might look like a steal, and at the price--practically free--it is. While Morgan has pounded the Eastern League the last two years, he is about to turn 27. At 6'7", there's more to remind you of Billy Ashley than Matt Stairs, both superficially and in terms of what anybody should expect from him. As long as the Angels are goofing off with Scott Spiezio and Edgard Clemente as their DH platoon, they could use Morgan with either or both of them pretty interchangeably.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Rochester; optioned IF Jesse Garcia to Rochester. [4/28]

Normally, I think carrying 12 pitchers is a waste of time, but Jesse Garcia was as close to an effectively useless player as you can have on the roster. Mike Hargrove isn't the kind of manager who uses his bench aggressively, and while Garcia might have value as a defensive replacement for the Delino DeShields/Mark Lewis platoon, carrying three players to man second base is pretty silly, especially when the Orioles are spending two roster spots on multipositional utility man Rich Amaral and full-time DH Harold Baines. Then again, considering the Orioles are carrying two middle relievers they either shouldn't or won't use (Calvin Maduro and Chuck McElroy), they could carry Garcia if they really wanted.

What's interesting about the decision to go with the DeShields/Lewis platoon is what it tells us about how the Orioles see themselves. Because neither of them have futures or have much chance to get better in time, the Birds are still thinking they can try to win now. I don't blame them, given that most of the roster is past its prime, but when it's July and this team is fighting to stay in fourth place in the AL East, the Orioles will be better off cutting their losses and finally giving the job to Jerry Hairston Jr.

CINCINNATI REDS

Released LHP Norm Charlton; purchased the contract of SS Juan Castro from Louisville. [4/28]

Juan Castro should stick around as the Reds' utility infielder even after Barry Larkin heals, with Gookie Dawkins presumably going back down. So what this past week's worth of roster shuffling has done is elevate Chris Stynes into Mark Lewis's role (an improvement), brought in a utility infielder who can field better than Larkin (an improvement) and changed the 11th pitchers' slot from a notional second left-hander in the pen (first Hector Mercado, then briefly Norm Charlton) to a long reliever who can spot start. That's improvement, unless you're Whitey Herzog and get cranky about teams that don't carry two left-handed relievers. Not a bad set of moves as far as damage control goes, but not enough to make Dante Bichette disappear.

Alert the Devil Rays, an ex-famous person just got released.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RHP David Riske from the DL and optioned him to Buffalo. [4/28]

Placed CF Kenny Lofton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/27 (strained bicep tendon); placed OF Jacob Cruz on the 60-day DL (torn ACL); recalled UT Jolbert Cabrera and purchased the contract of OF Mark Whiten from Buffalo; signed 1B/3B Jeff Manto to a minor-league contract; rescinded the assignment of RHP David Riske to Buffalo, and returned him to the 15-day DL. [4/30]

If the Indians weren't already in the market for a center fielder, they will be now. While Jolbert Cabrera and Alex Ramirez have their uses, neither one of them can play center field over an extended period of time, while the legend of Mark Whiten's strong arm is worth little more than keeping batters at second base on the balls in the gaps he isn't going to reach.

The Indians' problems are the same as they were over the winter: they need a good fourth outfielder who can play center field and a backup catcher who can hit. With Jacob Cruz, they had reason to hope they'd fixed one of the two problems, but Cruz is apparently out for the year. Even then, he's had frequent problems with injuries, and the Indians mucked around in camp with non-alternatives like Lance Johnson.

With Sandy Alomar Jr., there was no reason to expect anything other than another injury, but instead of carrying a third catcher who can hit, like Jim Leyritz or John Roskos, they've got multiple redundancy among their sixth starters with Bobby Witt and Scott Kamieniecki and Chad Ogea and Joe Roa and their ilk. If you're a White Sox fan, these are the sorts of things that warm your flinty hearts

Condolences to Jacob Cruz, who only seems to catch breaks in his limbs.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed RHP Jerry DiPoto on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/26 (bulging disk - neck); activated RHP Mike DeJean from the DL. [4/28]

Purchased the contract of RHP Giovanni Carrara from Colorado Springs; optioned RHP Rick Croushore to Colorado Springs. [4/30]

First Kevin Jarvis, and now Giovanni Carrara? Are all of the Quadruple-A pitchers going to get their shots in Colorado? While I'm sure they're happy to get the opportunities, I could understand if they saw coming up with the Rockies as a mixed blessing.

With Jerry DiPoto's bulging disk likely to keep him out for the rest of the season, some rotoheads may fidget about who's going to get save opportunities with the Rockies. While there are initial noises that they might eventually elevate Jose Jimenez into the spot, the Rox are better off continuing along the path they already seem inclined to take: skip the Tony LaRussa roles and just keep using everybody for multiple innings.

Coors Field is the right place to start getting away from traditional or LaRussian usage patterns, and while Buddy Bell is hardly synonymous with evolution, we might be on the edge of some really interesting developments. Would a six-man rotation in which everyone gets paired up and pitches every three days for 60 pitches work? Or would a balance of one "normal" starter, in this case Pedro Astacio, and that six-man group working every four days for 60 to 75 pitches work better? You'd still have at least four "relievers," five if you went with a 12-man staff.

Regardless of how they do so, here's hoping Bell and Dan O'Dowd get creative. On a certain level, guys like Brian Bohanon have made their beds by signing with the Rox; their chances of getting good money in their next free agency spin are already maimed because of their place of employment. So why bother with workloads and roles that don't seem to be working in the highest-offense environment in a high-offense era?

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed OF Moises Alou on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/27 (strained calf); recalled LF Lance Berkman from New Orleans. [4/29]

To some, Moises Alou's knack for hurting himself is the difference between a good career and a slim shot at the Hall of Fame. For the Astros, it may not make that much difference. Lance Berkman is coming off a hot month in the Big Easy, and he only perpetuates the team's nice problem of choosing from among Berkman, Richard Hidalgo, Roger Cedeno and the platoon of Daryle Ward and Matt Mieske.

So losing Alou for however long he'll be gone for this time isn't really the big problem. The problem is adapting to Enron Field. It doesn't look like the Astros can get away with a bullpen filled with retreads and no-treads like they could in the Astrodome, which could mean some serious roster shakeups. The question is whether they'll put it off until the trade deadlines. I don't think they should take their time about it; while I expect the Cardinals to cool off, I don't see a reason to expect them to go into a tailspin.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Rescinded their assignment of LHP Jeff Williams to Albuquerque, and placed him on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/20 (strained wrist). [4/28]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed C/UT Mark Dalesandro to a minor-league contract. [4/28]

Activated RHP Juan Acevedo from the DL; purchased the contract of LHP Ray King from Indianapolis; designated LHP Matt Williams for assignment; released RHP Jaime Navarro. [4/30]

While you might want to commend the Brewers for finally doing what had to be done with Jaime Navarro, it only begs the question of why they bothered to do the White Sox the favor of trading for him in the first place. If this was the price to get four years of John Snyder, it isn't going to be worth it, and in exchange the Brewers discarded one of their juiciest trade options in Jose Valentin. Sometimes you don't need Sal Bando to pull a Sal Bando.

The Brewers keep trying to plug their organizational hole at catcher, and keep nabbing guys who are better than Tyler Houston. At least they brought Ray King up; if left in the situational role he was born to fill, he should make people forget Mike Myers (the lefty, not the prospect or the comic) pretty quickly.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Activated RHP Antonio Armas from the DL and optioned him to Ottawa; released RHP Michel Laplante. [4/29]

A good month or so in Ottawa could be enough for Antonio Armas to come up and claim the fifth spot in the rotation. For now the Expos have Jeremy Powell making cameos while Mike Thurman heals; both of them are nice pitchers, but neither has Armas's upside.

NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of C Vance Wilson from Norfolk; optioned RHP Eric Cammack to Norfolk; designated LHP Anthony Shumaker for assignment. [4/29]

Mike Piazza's hand injury brings to the fore one of this team's core strengths: a bench loaded with guys who could start for other teams. Todd Pratt isn't merely the best backup catcher in baseball: he might be among the 20 best catchers in the game. Expansion or no expansion, in terms of having a real career as an everyday player, he's gotten the shaft while people like Jorge Fabregas get at-bats.

But Pratt is just the signature player on a bench that also has Jon Nunnally and Benny Agbayani, who would be a better left-field platoon than a good number of teams run out there. Kurt Abbott is a good-hitting alternative to St. Rey the Batless at shortstop. Because of Rickey Henderson's slow start and Darryl Hamilton's injury, they've already had to press Nunnally and Agbayani into pretty regular use and, like losing Piazza for a few days, it won't kill them.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed OF Roberto Kelly on the 15-day DL (partially sprained elbow); purchased the contract of OF Felix Jose from Columbus; transferred RHP Luis De Los Santos from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/29]

Placed OF Felix Jose on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased the contract of C Chris Turner from Columbus; transferred 1B Nick Johnson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/30]

The team's lack of depth just gets a little more obvious with every new injury. At least the Yankees get two benefits out of this shuffle: Felix Jose gets to Do No Harm while adding service time nobody thought he'd ever get, and Jim Leyritz can move over to DH now that they have a third catcher. It's probably too soon for them to start seriously shopping for a fourth outfielder better than Lance Johnson, but they already have that in Luke Wilcox.

What this really brings to the fore is that as an organization the Yankees did not do a good job shopping for veteran minor-league free agents who might have made useful replacements.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed RHP Kevin Appier on the 15-day DL (strained forearm); recalled RHP Luis Vizcaino from Sacramento. [4/30]

Kevin Appier is expected to miss just two starts, so what this move really does is give Ron Mahay a chance to double his total of career major-league starts. This will only be important if another starter goes down at some later date and the A's have to decide whether or not Barry Zito is ready.

Meanwhile, Luis Vizcaino will get to repeat his middle-relief role from the beginning of the month after flopping in a brief trial as a starter at Sacramento. It would probably have been better to leave him alone for the two weeks, and bring up someone else on the 40-man roster to hang out in the mopup role.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Designated RHP Amaury Telemaco for assignment. [4/29]

Activated RHP Curt Schilling from the DL. [4/30]

There are two pathetic spectacles going on simultaneously, and the question is which one is more feeble. First, the Cubs are trying to play up Kerry Wood's return as the move that will make everything all right, even if it might only be the difference between 68 and 72 wins. In a similar vein, the Phillies are bubbling about Curt Schilling's return, as if he'll fix a lame offense or a badly-run pitching staff. I'm not convinced that he isn't rushing back, but on this team, what Curt wants Curt gets. I half-expect him to reinjure himself by July after a spate of eight-inning starts in which he waves off the bullpen and Terry Francona obligingly lets him pitch.

The interesting development is the decision to try to dump Amaury Telemaco; long-time readers undoubtedly know I've got a soft spot in my heart/head for him, because when his slider is snapping it really is something lovely. But the odd part is that they're keeping mopup man Steve Schrenk around over Telemaco. They already know that nobody would claim Schrenk if they took him off of the 40-man roster, while chances are pretty good that somebody is going to nab Telemaco.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Optioned 3B Aramis Ramirez to Nashville; recalled LHP Jeff Wallace from Nashville. [4/28]

Here's the chicken-shiznit move for the weekend. While Aramis Ramirez has struggled in the field and at the plate, is running him off after less than a month really going to help him? It certainly won't help the Bucs, not when the alternatives are Mike Benjamin and Luis Sojo.

It isn't as if a struggling Ramirez was keeping an adequate veteran on the bench, or hindering the Pirates' chances at contention. Instead, because some people in the organization--and some prominent writers--got silly and started believing that this was the year the Pirates would contend. for no more reason than because it became as briefly fashionable as mood rings, the Bucs decided to scapegoat their best prospect once reality smacked them around for a month.

Is there any organizational memory of how they screwed up the exact same way with Kevin Young? It should be pretty easy to remember, now that they have Young back and he's their overpaid first baseman. Another comparison might be to Bill Madlock, who should have been a Ranger, except that the Rangers got silly and traded him away before his career really got started.

The real shame is that the Bucs might be a pretty good offensive team if they weren't too busy goofing off with people like Sojo or Benjamin or Wil Cordero or Pat Meares. Thanks to moves like giving up on Ramirez too easily, all they're going to accomplish is making the run for fourth place a dogfight.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed RHP Dave Wainhouse on the 15-day DL (shoulder discomfort); recalled LHP Justin Brunette from Memphis. [4/28]

While the Cardinals' rotation options and their eventual depth have gotten plenty of attention, the pen has its strengths as well. They've got four left-handed relievers to sort through; Brunette throws hardest and is the one with a future, but he'll have to fight past LaRussa's congenital reliance on geezers like Scott Radinsky and Jesse Orosco (once they're healthy), or his ex-Oaklander fetish for Mike Mohler.

They've got a similar potential logjam among their right-handers behind closer Dave Veres and Heathcliff Slocumb: Mike James is the best of the bunch, but Gene Stechschulte has his uses and once Mark Thompson is ready, he'll be a fine long reliever. Anything that keeps them from resorting to John Ambrose is a good thing.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed RHP Brian Boehringer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/21 (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Rodrigo Lopez from Las Vegas. [4/28]

Placed RF Tony Gwynn on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/29 (knee inflammation); activated PH Dave Magadan from the DL. [4/30]

The Padres have put up a pretty good fight so far, but losing Tony Gwynn and Brian Boehringer highlights this team's problems: they're not a young team, a healthy team or a deep team. At least the callup of Rodrigo Lopez gets to bring attention to the Pads' Mexican connection, and that might help sell some seats.

If you wanted to bet on which outfielder is going to get the most playing time in a Pads uniform this season, fourth outfielder Eric Owens is looking pretty good so far. With Gwynn out, they have to make a serious choice between Kory DeHaan and David Newhan for one of the outfield corners, and that's every bit as good as it sounds.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated IF Carlos Guillen from the DL; optioned IF Carlos Hernandez to Tacoma. [4/28]

While a three-headed monster of Carlos Guillen, Mark McLemore and David Bell manning second base and third base might sound like a good idea, the problem is that none of them are that good at second or hit as much as teams expect from their third basemen. It'll be interesting to see if the Mariners elect to find a fourth head to add to the shuffle, or if they want to continue to pretend that John Mabry could be part of the solution.

The four-man offense of Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud and Jay Buhner works only so long as Buhner's healthy, and that's a dicey proposition. Add in whatever bitter fruits Lou Piniella will reap from this year's pitching, and you can understand why neither Oakland or Texas need to worry too much about the Mariners' decent start. Especially in the Rangers' case, unless an evil trick by the scheduling gods suddenly curses them with 20 more games against the Yankees...

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Jim Mecir on the 15-day DL (biceps tightness); activated RHP Bryan Rekar from the DL. [4/30]

While I'm probably happier than anybody to see Dave Eiland get some more major-league time, the Rays would be better off trying to patch their self-inflicted grisly problems by putting Bryan Rekar into the rotation and bumping Eiland back to third-string mopup man behind Jeff Sparks and Rick White. That's what they get to stoop to, having thrown lots of money at big injury risks like Wilson Alvarez and Juan Guzman.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned LHP John Bale to Syracuse; purchased the contract of LHP Eric Gunderson from Syracuse; transferred RHP Joey Hamilton from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/28]

Another pointlessly random callup and dismissal. While plenty of people have faith in the idea that you should try to find and ride the hot hand, that's usually for hitters. The Jays might be the first team to look for the hot hand among second left-handed relievers or mop-up men with nonstop one-week auditions.

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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