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May 9, 2000

Transaction Analysis

May 4-7, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed RHP Matt Mantei on the 15-day DL (weak shoulder); purchased the contract of RHP Vicente Padilla from Tucson. [5/5]

Sometimes it's fashionable to bash teams that give up a"known" major-league pitcher for pitching prospects/suspects. Usually, that's because the ability to pitch in the majors is an unpredictable quality. Pitchers get hurt, and not every organization knows how to handle young pitchers in the minor leagues. Fewer still might know exactly how to handle the new pitching prospect or prospects they've received.

All that considered, trading for Matt Mantei is starting to look like one of this organization's biggest mistakes, ranking just a notch below the freaky fascination with Tony Womack.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed C Eddie Perez on the 15-day DL (torn rotator cuff); placed SS Walt Weiss on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of C Fernando Lunar from Greenville (Double-A); recalled SS Mark DeRosa from Richmond. [5/5]

Placed OF Reggie Sanders on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/30 (sprained ankle); purchased the contract of IF Steve Sisco from Richmond; transferred C Eddie Perez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/6]

While many organizations would crank up a whiny "if only we hadn't had all these injuries" campaign, the Braves have dealt with this before and are pretty well positioned to cope with the losses.

Rafael Furcal has cut his teeth in the first five weeks of the season, so losing Walt Weiss now doesn't put any more pressure on him. It would arguably have been worse to have him coming up right now, without the last month's worth of experience. Mark DeRosa is a nice enough caddy with a bit of sock. While John Schuerholz deserves criticism for his affection for washed-up vets, he's gotten Ozzie Guillen out of his system, so there really isn't the problem here that there has been in past years.

Losing Eddie Perez might hurt Greg Maddux's feelings, but the Braves have been able to conjure up Greg Myers in the past. The potential danger is that they do something stupid, like last year's acquisition of Jorge Fabregas. Don't be surprised if the Braves offer something moderately useful to the Marlins for Paul Bako, or go to the Padres for Carlos Hernandez. Fernando Lunar is a non-factor.

As for losing Reggie Sanders, well, who doesn't expect to lose Reggie Sanders? The problem is that unlike the shortstop situation, where they have a quality alternative, the Braves will hand the job in left field to Bobby Bonilla and Trenidad Hubbard. While that's better than playing Otis Nixon, it would have been nice if the Braves had made a similar choice with George Lombard as they made with Furcal.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated RHP Scott Erickson from the DL; optioned RHP Gabe Molina to Rochester. [5/4]

The funny thing about the Orioles is that now that they have the rotation everyone expected them to use (Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Sidney Ponson, Pat Rapp and Jason Johnson), they have somehow decided to keep carrying their sixth and seventh starters, Jose Mercedes and Calvin Maduro, despite neither of them pitching very well. While nobody should begrudge them their sticking around in front of somebody like Tim Worrell, it still smacks of a half-assed way to run a staff. Al Reyes would be a more useful right-handed middle man, but what this team could really use is an outfielder to spot in center field for Brady Anderson's slowing legs, and not an extra mop-up man.

Meanwhile, Erickson will continue to flash his very hittable "unhittable" stuff. Watch for references to how "filthy" it is, for the extra phony nouveau hipness you expect whenever Montgomery Burns says "dude."

CHICAGO CUBS

Activated RHP Ismael Valdes from the DL; optioned RHP Matt Karchner to Iowa. [5/4]

In case anyone is wondering about whether or not the Cubs are panicking, they are. Ismael Valdes's oft-blistered fingers are still a mess and he probably shouldn't be pitching. But the drive to stay ahead of the Brewers is a major project, worthy of calculated risks and major sacrifices, and Valdes isn't under contract beyond this year, anyway.

Even if Valdes were sound, the Cubs would still have to confront several basic problems. Don Baylor is demonstrating that he doesn't learn from his mistakes. Losing a playoff game in 1995 because he elected to carry 12 pitchers should have taught him an unforgettable lesson. Still, the Cubs are lugging around four left-handed relievers, including Baylor's latest cherry-picked proof of his geniusdom, Mexican League mystery man Daniel Garibay. It looks like expectations that Baylor knew how to run a bullpen, based on his Coors Field experiences, were vastly overstated.

Baylor is also bunting like crazy with position players, while decrying their inability to make contact. Usually, the bunt is supposed to put runners in scoring position so that you can manufacture a run on a sacrifice fly or a groundout to a middle infielder. The success of the strategy depends on the ability of the man after the bunter to make contact, and here you have a team with guys like Sammy Sosa and Henry Rodriguez and Glenallen Hill and Shane Andrews and Willie Greene, none of them are known for their ability to make contact.

One sign of a good manager is that he uses what he has to best advantage, but Baylor's trying to turn a weak offensive team already heavily dependent on creating the big inning into the 1982 Cardinals. Baylor is right to identify his team as a bad offensive squad, but he's also the man who wanted to have people like Damon Buford and Joe Girardi around in the first place.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Pete Harnisch on the 15-day DL, retroactive to May 5 (weak rotator cuff). [5/6]

While the Reds are strutting a bit after manhandling the Cardinals over the weekend, keep in mind they're still a shallow team. Losing Pete Harnisch exposes a basic problem: there really isn't an adequate replacement at hand. They may have to resurrect Osvaldo Fernandez, which is akin to some of Bowden's other eldritch terrors, like Ruben Sierra or Dante Bichette or Freon Deion.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Activated RHP Rolando Arrojo from the DL; optioned RHP Giovanni Carrara to Colorado Springs. [5/6]

As always, there's potential for creative usage patterns here. A rotation that includes Pedro Astacio, Rolando Arrojo and Masato Yoshii isn't a bad starting point. The Rox could then use Brian Bohanon and Scott Karl as starters against teams with problems against left-handers, Julian Tavarez or even Jose Jimenez against teams with heavily right-handed lineups and Kevin Jarvis against teams like the Brewers.

Okay, so that's pretty fanciful, but neither Karl nor Bohanon has a strong argument to be in the rotation in anything other than a highly tailored role, and as long as you're going to spend the year using 12 pitchers, why not get creative?

In high-offense eras in years gone by, several teams experimented with tailoring their rotations to secure certain matchups. While some "traditionalists" pretend that the four-man rotation ruled the day until the Dodgers couldn't figure out what to do with Claude Osteen in the 1960s, take a look at what happened in an extreme offensive season like 1930 or 1950. Nobody was using four-man rotations, and it wasn't just because doubleheaders were more frequent. Teams like the Philadelphia A's in 1930 or the New York Yankees in 1950 would aim to start certain pitchers against certain teams. While it was easier to do in an eight-team league with more travel days and fewer games, I don't see why a team couldn't try something similar on a seasonal scale nowadays.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Activated 2B Luis Castillo from the DL; optioned 2B Pablo Ozuna to Portland (Double-A). [5/5]

Luis Castillo's return coming on top of Dave Berg's seems to have given the Marlins the madcap notion that their supremely overrated Alex Gonzalez can start catching up on the bench time he's been earning since last year's All-Star break.

As previously mentioned, starting Berg at shortstop and leading off with Castillo is the Marlins' best lineup for winning 70 games or so this year. While that may not sound like much, winning a few more games now makes for some pretty sound politics as long as the Fish are trying to secure political support and taxpayer funding for a new stadium. Since I don't see Gonzalez ever turning into something special, nobody should get too upset about blowing off his future while trying to score some more runs.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Optioned SS Julio Lugo to New Orleans; purchased the contract of RHP Joe Slusarski from New Orleans. [5/5]

The fascination with Tim Bogar started off as an amusing affectation, like that uncle of yours who wears a fez or the dowdy woman in your church's choir who coins terms like "ass-ho-lalalalala" to avoid swearing. But the Astros need to start gearing up to pick up ground, and they failed to give Julio Lugo a shot he's ready for. Instead, they're doing things like asking Bill Spiers to play shortstop, which he can't really do on a regular basis.

You can sort of understand the decision to go to 12 pitchers, considering how routinely Jose Lima and Chris Holt are getting shellacked, not to mention the tender arms that both Scott Elarton and Octavio Dotel are working with right now. But patching one hole while leaving another wide open isn't going to fix what's going wrong so far. If the Astros wanted to kill two birds with one stone, they could cut Bogar loose, or if that medicine's too strong for their taste, try to slip Russ Johnson through waivers.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed LHP Jose Rosado on the 15-day DL (tendinitis - shoulder); recalled RHP Chris Fussell from Omaha. [5/5]

Doing nothing to ensure Jose Rosado's long-term health is one of the few things Tony Muser is responsible for, and as Rany Jazayerli and Rob Neyer have lamented often enough, it hasn't worked out too well. In his absence, the rotation is going to be Jeff Suppan, Chad Durbin, Miguel Batista, a refreshed Chris Fussell and probably Mac Suzuki. Considering they've lost both Rosado and putative third starter Blake Stein, that's still a solid group of young pitchers and temps to work with while the Royals push for a .500 season.

Anyone else think its cool that in Rosado's absence, the Royals have no left-handed pitchers on their staff?

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed CF Devon White on the 15-day DL (partially torn rotator cuff); placed SS Kevin Elster on the 15-day DL (pulled groin); activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the DL; recalled SS Alex Cora from Albuquerque. [5/5]

Forced to play for his job security, Devo had been having a nice little start, while Kevin Elster's amazing comeback had already garnered plenty of attention. In their absences, Davey Johnson won't have the same freedom of action with his bench as he previously had: F.P. Santangelo will undoubtedly be pressed into more regular playing time in the outfield.

In an effort to preserve roles, Jose Vizcaino is going to remain on the bench while Alex Cora will get first crack at the starting job at shortstop. That will undoubtedly appeal to Left Coast closet members of the Cult of St. Rey Ordonez, but just as with the original overrated article, Cora is an offensive zero.

Antonio Osuna's return should make things a little interesting in what is shaping up as a fine bullpen: Johnson has been using Matt Herges and Terry Adams aggressively in long relief, while trying to keep Mike Fetters and Alan Mills off the mound. Jeff Shaw is reserved for save situations in the Eck style, which makes sense considering the heavy workloads he's carried over the last couple of years. What will be really interesting is what the team decides to do once Gregg Olson heals or Onan Masaoka is ready to return as the token left-hander. And what if the Dodgers decide they need a 14th position player again? The fragility of guys like Olson or Osuna or Fetters becomes an asset, where Johnson can mix and match as needed and for what he might feel he needs for any two-week stretch.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed LF Geoff Jenkins on the 15-day DL (broken middle finger). [5/6]

Activated OF Mark Sweeney from the DL. [5/7]

While the loss of Geoff Jenkins eliminates one of the two or three reasons to watch this team play, it does give Davey Lopes a chance to use his stable of fourth outfielders to advantage. Lyle Mouton is still a decent hitter, James Mouton is a great platoon player to spot against left-handers and use as a pinch-runner and defensive substitute, and Mark Sweeney gives this three-headed platoon a left-handed batter with great on-base skills.

The first month or so has essentially chugged along as if spring training hadn't ended, as Lopes learned what he has and what he can do with it. The early baloney about using Marquis Grissom as a leadoff hitter has come to a halt, and they've got Ron Belliard at the top of the order where he belongs. If the Brewers get really lucky, they may yet get Grissom back on the Indians now that the Tribe is bereft of anyone capable of playing center field.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Purchased the contract of 2B Jay Canizaro from Salt Lake; optioned 2B Todd Walker to Salt Lake; designated 2B/SS Cleatus Davidson for assignment. [5/4]

There's already been a reasonable amount of handwringing about evil old Tom Kelly for doing this, but I'm going to be a bit more pragmatic. Does Todd Walker have any chance of being the second baseman of the Twins' team of the future, the one that will be built around Mike Restovich and B.J. Garbe and Bobby Kielty? Nope. He's a 27-year-old platoon second baseman with defensive limitations coming off of a lousy 1999. Can he do better? No doubt about it, but the point is that so far, he's been a disappointment.

I wouldn't lump this move with the Pirates and their inexcusable decision to demote Aramis Ramirez. Walker has been given more than two full seasons to show the Twins he's worth keeping, and he's looking a lot more like Brent Gates than Lou Whitaker at this point.

What I do agree with is the idea that the Twins have undercut their ability to trade him by demoting him. They should have waited for a hot tear, plant a few rumors about adjustments that he was making that would get him back to where he was in 1998 and make him into something for which a borderline contender might deal.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Granted OF Rich Becker his unconditional release; recalled OF/1B Jeremy Giambi from Sacramento. [5/5]

One of the things that Billy Beane does a bit differently from almost any other GM is that if a player makes it plain he's not happy being on his team, Beane will find a way to make him go away. Witness last year's otherwise strange decision to deal Kenny Rogers: it wasn't that the A's couldn't have used the Gambler, but Rogers made it clear he didn't want to be in Oakland and Beane accommodated him.

Similarly, Rich Becker was unhappy that he'd lost his job in center field after doing what he does do well (get on base), and asked for his walking papers. Beane gave him complete freedom, for which he should be grateful, because a team like the Cubs or the Reds or the Yankees or the Rangers should snap him up immediately.

Part of the reason Beane can afford to be high-minded is that he understands the concept of free talent: talent can be had for the asking if you know what you want and what the other guy doesn't value. Of course, it's easier to be that way when you can pick Herk Robinson's pocket every few weeks and have someone like Jeremy Giambi just lying around, but nobody said life was fair.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed RHP Darren Holmes; optioned RHP Gene Stechschulte to Memphis. [5/4]

Not a bad signing for the Cardinals. Holmes has experience closing in case something goes wrong with Dave Veres, and he's far enough past thirty to appreciate whatever wisdom pitching guru Dave Duncan is supposed to be able impart.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated CF Ruben Rivera and RHP Rodney Myers from the DL; recalled 1B John Roskos from Las Vegas; placed RHP Woody Williams on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/2; optioned OF/2B David Newhan and RHP Buddy Carlyle to Las Vegas. [5/5]

The Pads are talking tough about how Ruben Rivera will have to earn a spot in the lineup, but Eric Owens isn't a regular center fielder. What's interesting is that the Pads have started to kick around using an all-elephant outfield with Ryan Klesko in left field, Al Martin in right field and Owens in center. It all makes sense if it gets a good offensive player in the lineup at first base, but this is the Padres, and they're doing it to make room for Ed Sprague.

What the Pads will do in their rotation in Williams's absence, now that he's effectively gone for the year, is a bit up in the air. Rodney Myers is not really an option, and they just dispatched Buddy Carlyle, who ought to be the first choice. Maybe Will Cunnane?

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Optioned RHP Ryan Rupe to Durham; recalled RHP Cory Lidle from Durham. [5/4]

Ryan Rupe's miserable start really ought to call into question what Larry Rothschild brings to this team. He's supposed to be a pitching-oriented manager, and the team's prime pitching prospect falters almost as badly as Tony Saunders did last year before breaking his arm?

In his absence, the rotation looks even worse than it did before. Dave Eiland and Bryan Rekar? Doc Gooden? While Wilson Alvarez will hopefully be ready in another week at most, Naimoli's Folly Franchise will still continue to scuffle.

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed OF Gabe Kapler on the 15-day DL (torn quadriceps); recalled SS Kelly Dransfeldt from Oklahoma. [5/4]

Optioned SS Kelly Dransfeldt to Oklahoma; purchased the contract of CF Scarborough Green from Oklahoma; designated C Cesar King for assignment. [5/6]

So the Rangers have lost two of their three starting outfielders, and who do they have to lean on in the absence of Rusty Greer and Gabe Kapler? Jason McDonald and Chad Curtis? The Rangers are talking about how quickly Greer might be able to come back, but they're more short-handed than they could reasonably expect or should have to be. Pedro Valdes must have more bad karma stored up from previous lives than anyone I can think of.

Given how shallow some organizations are at catcher, you would have to expect that Cesar King will be claimed by some team like the Brewers or Cubs.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned LHP Clayton Andrews to Syracuse; recalled SS Chris Woodward from Syracuse. [5/5]

Even amidst Gord Ash's inveterate reshuffling, he noticed Jim Fregosi needed someone to play shortstop in case the manager wanted to pinch-hit for Alex Gonzalez more than the team could afford a fourth left-handed reliever.

In his brief stint with the team, Clayton Andrews didn't help his chances of claiming the fifth spot in the rotation from the combustible Frank Castillo, which means the Jays should still be on the market for a starting pitcher.

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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