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May 19, 2000

Transaction Analysis

May 15-17, 2000

by Christina Kahrl


Placed SS Gary DiSarcina on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/9; recalled 2B Trent Durrington from Edmonton. [5/11]

Placed LHP Kent Mercker on the 15-day DL (cerebral hematoma). [5/12]

Outrighted C Bret Hemphill to Edmonton. [5/15]

Optioned 2B Trent Durrington to Edmonton; purchased the contract of 2B Keith Luuloa from Edmonton. [5/16]

Hats off to Benji Gil's agent for putting his client with the right team this year. After having to play organizational caddy to Mike Caruso and Alex (The Bad) Gonzalez for the last two years, there's no better way to return to the majors than by caddying for someone as injury-prone as DiSarcina.

What's interesting about this situation is what it does to the Angels' bench. Keith Luuloa can't play shortstop for any length of time and Scott Spiezio can't play it at all. Does that mean that Adam Kennedy might get in a couple of games at his original position? Probably only if the Angels elect to pinch-hit for Gil in the late innings. Mike Scioscia may betray his Dodger roots and ask players to play positions that they can't every once in awhile, so it will be mildly interesting to see if he does. If he wants to avoid Gil's bat, all the better that he let Kennedy start a few games at shortstop to see if the Cardinals moved him too soon, while letting Luuloa get a couple of starts at second base.

Best wishes to Kent Mercker on making a full recovery. You have to harbor hope that nobody loses their way of making a living because of something as far out of their control as this.


Placed RHP Calvin Maduro on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Al Reyes from Rochester. [5/15]

This means that the Orioles stick with twelve pitchers, and one of them is Jose Mercedes. To go off on a tangent here, Mercedes is leading the American League in triples allowed (with five through Sunday, courtesy of Baseball Weekly), despite being nowhere near the league leader in innings pitched. This isn't meant solely as an indictment of Mercedes: even at his best, he's never been the kind of pitcher who fools many people, always being more of a "put the ball in play" finesse righthander.

What those triples really expose is an old outfield: Brady Anderson is the oldest center fielder in the American League by a good three years (Gerald Williams is second at 33 and Bernie Williams is third at 31). B.J. Surhoff is 35 and a converted catcher, and the yellow spot in the grass at Comiskey II still hasn't disappeared from the seasons when now 33-year-old Albert Belle haunted its outfield.

Now there's no doubt in my mind that Mercedes, at his best, is a borderline 12th pitcher. But his life isn't made any easier by the Orioles' decision to play three corner outfielders at once. As Clay Davenport reminded me, the Orioles' tough situation isn't going to get any easier: Anderson is a ten-and-five man, Surhoff will become one after this season and Belle has a no-trade clause. So if the Orioles want to bring in some fresh legs for center field, that means trading Surhoff before this season is up and/or not re-signing Harold Baines after it, so that one or all of the three outfielders could fill in at DH in 2001.

Somehow, I just don't see Boss Angelos letting Baines go away and with it the shot that his 3000th hit would come in an Orioles uniform. On the other hand, the way Baines is going, it might take him until 2002 to get there. Assuming the Orioles want to improve on the field, they're going to have to trade Surhoff or let Baines slip away, because more people than just Jose Mercedes will thank their lucky stars if the Orioles finally bring in a center fielder.


Activated SS Barry Larkin from the DL; optioned SS Gookie Dawkins to Chattanooga (Double-A). [5/16]

Even if Larkin is starting to slip, his return is a definite OBP boost to a lineup that needs it. Now that they're at full strength, and as it becomes more and more obvious that Fonzie Bichette can't out-hit the Reds' fourth outfielder, Alex Ochoa (let alone their fifth, Michael Tucker), the Reds need to come to terms with how to best ease Fonzie out of the way and get eight major-league hitters into the lineup. They've already pulled off a nice rally to catch the Cardnals, and they can't afford an easy out in the lineup.


Purchased the contract of LHP Allen McDill from Toledo; released LHP Jim Poole. [5/17]

Like a doomed Roman emperor, Randy Smith keeps sacrificing bystanders to foretell his future, and the entrails keep saying the same thing: you can fire the players, but at the end of the day, you really ought to fire yourself.

Allen McDill could actually turn out to be a nice lefty specialist; all he's lacking is a birth certificate from the Johnson administration or earlier, the lack of which seems to discourage teams from giving him major-league experience. Jim Poole has been in Tony Fossas territory and living on his reputation for more than three years, about as long as Fossas was in the same boat.


Purchased the contract of LHP Paul Spoljaric from Omaha; optioned RHP Chad Durbin to Omaha. [5/17]

I've said it before and I'll say it again: as long as the Royals leave Paul Spoljaric in the bullpen, they'll give themselves a great setup man. If they make the mistake of trying to make him a situational reliever, he'll struggle, and if they try to put him into the rotation, he'll suck.

Spoljaric could be part of a suddenly much-improved pen. Now that Tony Muser has gotten away from using Ricky Bottalico as a closer in the Eck style, he's getting better work out of both Bottalico and Jerry Spradlin. Jose Santiago and Dan Reichert have both been effective in middle relief, and Jay Witasick is starting to look like he'll be a useful pitcher in the pen.

The rotation is another story: Jeff Suppan, Miguel Batista, Chris Fussell and Mac Suzuki are currently manning slots, with Jose Rosado hopefully coming off of the DL by the time they need a fifth starter. Chad Durbin ends up looking like he was rushed, and for the time being, it's better for the Royals to see if Fussell and Suzuki are going to be worth keeping, or whether they'll end up being pushed aside by the wave of young pitching in the organization that should start showing up in time for September call-ups.


Acquired RHP Gene Altman from the Reds to complete the Alex Ochoa trade. [5/15]

Placed RHP Curt Leskanic on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/12 (groin cellulitis); recalled LHP Ray King from Indianapolis. [5/17]

I'm going to keep singing Ray King's praises, because having him around gives the Brewers a good situational left-hander to go with a hard-throwing left-handed setup man in Valerio De Los Santos. Add them to how well Stormy Weathers is pitching, and how well Bob Wickman was pitching before home plate umpire Steve Rippley decided to hand the Cubs a ballgame a week ago, and that's the start of a potentially very strong bullpen.

As for Curt Leskanic's injury, I hesitate to even inquire...


Recalled CF Emil Brown from Nasville; purchased the contract of RHP Josias Manzanillo from Nashville; designated RHP Jose Parra for assignment. [5/16]

Calling up Emil the Other Brown should give Chad Hermansen a sense of his impending doom, a return to Nashville. He's already losing playing time to Bruce Aven and Adrian Brown, and somebody is going to have go down once Francisco Cordova is ready to come off of the DL. While I've always liked Aven and both Browns as fourth outfielders, the Bucs are trying to contend with Luis Sojo at third base, Wil Cordero in one outfield corner and a cast of fill-ins in center field. I would have thought Pat Meares was enough of a joke.

Gene Lamont and Pete Vuckovich have deserved a lot of credit for their work with the pitching staff over the years, especially in getting good mileage out of retreads. But Lamont and Cam Bonifay have done a terrible job of showing the same kind of patience with young hitters. The Pirates won't contend until that changes.


Activated RHP Mark Thompson from the DL; purchased the contract of LHP Jose Rodriguez from Memphis; optioned LHP Justin Brunette and 1B/OF Larry Sutton to Memphis; transferred RHP Dave Wainhouse from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/16]

In classic LaRussian fashion, the Cardinals are already running scared thanks to bullpen mismanagement and prematurely heightened expectations. Can Justin Brunette pitch in the majors? How many left-handers throw hard and have a good slider? But a week's worth of appearances in situational action, and LaRussa's already scrambling to the next temp, while the Cards claim that Scott Radinsky and Jesse Orosco will eventually solve their problems. Maybe if they get the Radinsky or Orosco from several years ago, but neither has pitched that effectively in recent years, not by anyone's standards.

The real problem is that the Cardinals can't bring themselves to cut bait on their mistakes: they can't cut ex-Oaklander Mike Mohler, because he's an ex-Oaklander. Darren Holmes is too old to cut, and Heathcliff Slocumb was given guaranteed money after his first two effective months in the last three years.

While the Cardinals have gone out of their way to make their push this year, it looks like LaRussa still can't reconcile the his roster fetishes for geezers and situational goofs with his much-storied desire to win. What the Cardinals really need is a good long reliever or two; Mark Thompson might be adequate, but they made the mistake of cutting Paul Spoljaric in camp.


Activated RF Tony Gwynn from the DL; optioned DH John Roskos to Las Vegas. [5/15]

Tony Gwynn's return won't really improve the team. While he's still rightfully wearing his stripes as the Greatest Padre Ever, I'd rather have Gwynn take the time to be part of an MLB study on the potential effects of raising the mound. He's famous for his thoughtful and studious approach to hitting, and he's one of the most articulate players out there.

Early speculation is that raising the mound would only affect strikeout rates in any significant fashion, but I don't accept that argument as the final word on the subject. The effects could be much more severe, and I won't pretend to know what they would be. But as long as the game is being given the bum's rush to raise the mound to theoretically solve its ills, why not have Gwynn participate in what ought to be the bare minimum: a full-blown study using real major-league players. Maybe even stage a few offseason exhibition games using a 12-inch mound? It's a far sight better than just having the owners deliberate upon it before asking the union to ratify it.

Any chance that John Roskos was going to claim a platoon role in the outfield has basically died with an 0-for-20 start against left-handers. That isn't to say Al Martin still doesn't need a platoon partner; it's starting to look like that's the role to which Ruben Rivera is going to be reduced.


Placed RHP Joe Nathan on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/13 (tendinitis - shoulder); recalled RHP Ben Weber from Fresno. [5/17]

Among contemporary managers, some names are brought up a lot when it comes to abusing their starting pitchers: Lou Piniella, Tony LaRussa, Terry Francona. But Dusty Baker has managed to avoid getting the credit due him. Joe Nathan is broken, and it looks like Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez are scuffling pretty badly. While it's nice to have Mark Gardner around as a sixth starter, the Giants don't have three of him. Miguel Del Toro will probably be up pretty soon.

It doesn't help that last year's primo setup men, John Johnstone and Alan Embree, are both scuffling badly. While most people expect or claim that the Giants win because of Baker, I basically picked them to finish fourth in the NL West because of him.

Meanwhile, fans of goggled pitchers can cheer Weber's return to the majors.


Agreed to terms with LF Rickey Henderson on a one-year contract, with a club option for 2001. [5/17]

Money supposedly made the difference between signing with the Mariners or with les Expos, because there's little else to explain this. Rickey Henderson reunited with Lou Piniella even after Piniella's years of character assassination during his stints as GM and manager with the Yankees? You could argue that Henderson had a choice over what might hurt the Mets worse: the idea that he could help the Expos finish ahead of them, or playing on a team with a shot at a divisional title and the playoffs.

What Henderson does for the Mariners' lineup is even less straightforward: he doesn't play third base, so he has to settle for chasing Stan Javier to the bench five days a week. That's not a bad thing, since Javier is a fine fourth outfielder, but it still leaves the Mariners with offensive holes at second base, third base and catcher. We'll soon see how serious Pat Gillick is about improving this team.


Activated 2B/3B Frank Catalanotto from the DL; placed 3B Tom Evans on the 15-day DL (partially torn rotator cuff). [5/15]

While the bad news is that Tom Evans has probably already lost out on his best shot to stick in the majors and get extended playing time, the Rangers are in pretty good shape nonetheless. Mike Lamb looks like he won't need to be platooned or pulled for defense early in games, Luis Alicea is playing well and with Frank Catalanotto's return, the Rangers have a great platoon of him and Scott Sheldon to fill in where needed in the infield or at DH. They're even exploring using Catalanotto in the outfield, which makes plenty of sense when the alternatives are Jason McDonald and Scarborough Green.

Johnny Oates generally avoids his bench like the plague, but he knows he can use Catalanotto, and Sheldon hasn't disappointed him in his brief work, which might get him an extra at-bat or two.


Optioned RHP Roy Halladay to Syracuse; recalled RHP Peter Munro from Syracuse. [5/16]

Perception is an interesting thing: here in Chicago, there's non-stop talk about how the Jays should trade Jumbo Wells to the White Sox, without noticing that the Jays are a team with a good shot at the playoffs. If anything, the Jays need to find one more starting pitcher, not trade one.

Roy Halladay just wasn't getting his control problems sorted out, not that working through them with Jim Fregosi is a cakewalk. In his absence, the Jays are goofing around with Lance Painter in the rotation, which I expect to last fewer than ten starts before he gets hurt. That also means continuing to use Frank Castillo.

Both Painter and Castillo have been extraordinarily against their own kind, Castillo versus right-handed batters and Painter versus lefties. Spotting Castillo against teams with little left-handed pop and even more rarely using Painter against those few teams that rely heavily on lefty power might work on a twelve-man pitching staff with four useful starting pitchers. The Blue Jays aren't that team.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

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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