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May 23, 2000

Transaction Analysis

May 18-21, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Jason Dickson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/15 (tendinitis - hip); purchased the contract of RHP Brett Hinchliffe; transferred RHP Tim Belcher from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/19]

It looks like the Angels rushed Jason Dickson back to no good end. Coming on the heels of losing Ken Hill and Kent Mercker, on top of the demotion and injury of Ramon Ortiz, the Angels are about to go from having an adequate and better-than-expected rotation to one almost as bad as this winter's worst-case scenarios.

Brian Cooper will be called up to man one spot behind a front three of Kent Bottenfield, Scott Schoeneweis and Jarrod Washburn, but after that, the Angels are left wondering if Hill will be ready to be reactivated and rocked again, or if Ortiz should take a few more drubbings. Brett Hinchliffe is a notional temp, and for real gallows humor, keep in mind that Shawn Boskie is still mucking around the organization.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated RHP Matt Mantei from the DL; optioned RHP Vicente Padilla to Tucson. [5/21]

Matt Mantei's presence or absence hasn't mattered a whit so far, and it isn't about to start mattering. Vincente Padilla pitched well during his stint with the Snakes, well enough to deserve to stick. While some people are speculating that conditioning or expansion are keeping baseball players around for longer careers, career-saving surgeries and guaranteed money for people like Russ Springer and Armando Reynoso deserve healthy shares of the credit.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated SS Walt Weiss from the DL; optioned SS Mark DeRosa to Richmond. [5/21]

In Walt Weiss's absence, Rafael Furcal continued to flourish. While Furcal's on-base skills and speed get deserved attention, his defense is still rough enough to make job-sharing with Weiss a temporary necessity. It's to the Braves' continued credit that they can afford the luxury and have the organizational courage to give Furcal the job part-time, all while supposedly lagging behind the Mets and their over-touted veteran pickups.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated 1B Will Clark from the DL; optioned 3B Ryan Minor to Rochester. [5/18]

Who really cares if Will the Thrill is back? Boss Angelos? The psychic who in 1985 predicted Clark would break Pete Rose's hits record? That sad-sack rotohead who had to settle for getting Clark in his league? It isn't as if his playing will make the Orioles better or worse. Like too many players in their lineup, he's earned the distinction of being "mostly harmless."

The only addition is by subtraction, as Syd Thrift's toy project of Ryan Minor gets sent away, and deservingly so. It hasn't garnered much attention, but Thrift has gone from an honored doyen of player development to a craven toady of Clan Angelos with a slender grasp on the talent he has in his own system. If you're historically-minded and feel sorry for Thrift and his current predicament despite the fact that he's here by choice, then feel free to draft an obituary that skims over his association with this inept organization.

Bill James once noted that an unfortunate man lives to become a parody of his own strengths, a reference to Chuck Tanner. That same observation would be true of Thrift today; he's far-removed from being the innovator of the '60s and '70s that he once was, and his eye for talent has dimmed to the point that he sees no further than the roto mindset that guides Clan Angelos in its thoughtless accumulation of players more than 30 years old.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated 3B John Valentin from the DL; assigned IF Andy Sheets to Pawtucket. [5/19]

Even if John Valentin doesn't bounce back from the multi-year slide he's endured, Red Sox fans should at least take heart that his return and Wilton Veras's retention should temporarily eliminate the indignity of watching either Jeff Frye or Manny Alexander DH versus left-handed pitching.

It might help Boston's flexibility if the team were to explore returning Valentin to shortstop or even second base for a couple of games during Nomar Garciaparra's absence. Veras can only play third base, and if anything were to happen to Garciaparra or Jose Offerman down the stretch, the Red Sox would be better off being able to play Veras and Valentin in the same infield than wasting potentially critical at-bats on Donnie Sadler, or worse yet Frye or Alexander.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed RHP Jaret Wright on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/12 (strained right shoulder); placed RHP Charles Nagy on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (elbow); placed LHP Ricardo Rincon on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Scott Sanders from Buffalo; recalled RHP Jim Brower and LHP Mark Watson from Buffalo. [5/18]

Purchased the contract of RHP Paul Rigdon from Buffalo; designated RHP Scott Sanders for assignment. [5/19]

While losing three pitchers at once sounds pretty dramatic, how much effect will it really have? Things aren't really that bad, especially since they already have Bobby Witt out of their system. Jaret Wright should miss only one start and be back around the end of the month. That means only one rotation spot is up for grabs during the five or six weeks that Charles Nagy is expected to miss, and Paul Rigdon looks like he has first dibs. Rigdon is credited as a smart pitcher with a broad assortment. He's already a survivor of Tommy John surgery, and he's exactly the sort of pitcher the Indians should be evaluating instead of wasting time on the Bobby Witts of the world.

I have to confess some curiosity about what Dick Pole might have been able to do with Scott Sanders, but if Sanders couldn't pitch against the Tigers and hadn't done anything to win their confidence working with Pole in the spring, perhaps even I have to give up on him.

That leaves losing Ricky Rincon, possibly for the season. While the Tribe still has to live with the indignity of trading Brian Giles to get him, in practical terms, there's no significant effect. Useful situational left-handers can be scared up relatively easily, and Rincon wasn't being used for anything more than that. Mark Watson might not pitch significantly worse in terms of getting left-handed hitters out, even though he's far-removed from his days of starring at Clemson. The Tribe may turn somebody else up who's effective, if they're willing to beat the bushes to find him instead of trading a good prospect.

DETROIT TIGERS

Recalled RHP Brandon Villafuerte from Toledo; activated RHP Brian Moehler from the DL; placed RHP Mark Johnson on the 15-day DL (lower back strain); optioned RHP Masao Kida to Toledo. [5/19]

Scuffy Moehler's return brings the rotation back to full strength: Scuffy, Jeff Weaver, Hideo Nomo and C.J. Nitkowski. There's nobody in that rotation you wouldn't mind having, as long as you don't have to pitch more than two or three of them behind a couple of really good starters.

Mark Johnson takes the time-honored place of all Rule 5 draft picks: the disabled list. His stint will be stretched out as long as it is within the realm of medical excusability, followed by a maximum-length rehab assignment, which may keep him off the major-league roster until September 1, when rosters expand. While that's been standard operating procedure for years, don't be surprised if the Yankees are smart enough to file a grievance should the Tigers try this.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed RHP Alex Fernandez on the 15-day DL (sore rotator cuff and a strained ulnar collateral ligament). [5/19]

Activated RHP Ricky Bones from the DL. [5/21]

Alex Fernandez will "rest" for two weeks, after which the organization will have to start taking seriously the idea that he's done for the season. By all accounts he's been pitching in pain all year, and while the MRIs don't show any damage, the Fish still have a couple of years of contract to pay off, and they may as well try to protect that investment. If he can't pitch, this sad situation will start resembling Dave Dombrowski's earlier mistake with Bryan Harvey, where he held onto a valued veteran pitcher for that instant too long that made all the difference between having his employer pay off that contract and having someone like Boss Angelos on the hook.

For the immediate future, it won't matter much. The Fish won't need a fifth starter until Saturday at the earliest, and Ricky Bones may not get the shot he lost after to his epic battle with the Barcalounger that put him on the DL. Reid Cornelius is apparently being considered for a spot start, but Carlos Castillo would be the better call-up, no matter what he's weighing in at these days.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Claimed LHP Trever Miller off of waivers from the Phillies; transferred RHP Gregg Olson from the 15- to 60-day DL. [5/19]

Activated SS Kevin Elster from the DL; optioned SS Alex Cora to Albuquerque. [5/21]

Alex Cora hit better than most of us expected in his brief gig as the starting shortstop, which is food for thought considering he's the Dodgers' best defensive shortstop. Kevin Malone has tried to deal Jose Vizcaino in the past, and shouldn't stop trying. If they made Vizcaino disappear, Davey Johnson could use both Kevin Elster and F.P. Santangelo as his utility infielders while keeping Cora and Elster in a platoon of sorts at shortstop. It wouldn't be the first time Johnson has used an offense/defense platoon in the middle infield.

Claiming Trever Miller gives the Dodgers a situational left-hander, at least in theory; I still think they're better off using Onan Masaoka. They're coming up against the limits of their roster space, which helps to explain why Malone is desperately trying to unload Alan Mills to some appropriately desperate team (the Cubs? Astros?).

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed C Tyler Houston on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/15 (contused right calf); recalled C Raul Casanova from Indianapolis. [5/19]

Activated RHP John Snyder from the DL; optioned LHP Ray King to Indianapolis. [5/20]

With the Brewers having already lost out with Jaime Navarro, John Snyder gets to take his turn in the rotation. Like Navarro before him, Snyder isn't anything to keep Jamey Wright out of the rotation once he's ready to come off of the DL, which makes this winter's trade with the White Sox look even worse. And to think that nobody can blame the deal on Sal Bando. Why, it's enough to make any cheesehead weep.

At any rate, the ideal Brewers rotation is almost ready to take shape: Steve Woodard, Jimmy Haynes, Jeff D'Amico, Wright and Jason Bere. It might even be enough to give the Brewers an outside shot at fourth in the division, which would be the kind of moral victory they could use before moving into Miller Park.

As for losing Tyler Houston, "losing" seems misplaced in the sentence. If they really wanted a catcher who could hit to job-share with defensive whiz Henry Blanco, they should have inked George Williams when they had the chance.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Placed 2B/SS Jason Maxwell on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/9 (strained quadricep); recalled OF Brian Buchanan from Salt Lake. [5/18]

Here he is, the last part of the swag from the Chuck Knoblauch deal, token throw-in Brian Buchanan. What having him on the roster means is more infield duty for Denny Hocking, now that he's the team's lone utility infielder, and slightly more regular pinch-hitting assignments for Midre Cummings.

Buchanan's presence really just gives GM Terry Ryan the right to say, with a straight face, that he got three major-league players for Knoblauch. Semantics or qualitative assessments aside, it will be technically, factually true.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned 2B/3B Trace Coquillette to Ottawa; placed RHP Anthony Telford on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Guillermo Mota from Ottawa; signed LHP Jim Poole; transferred C Bob Henley from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/19]

What's left in the Expos' pen? For those of you keeping score, this means that they've got Dustin Hermanson to close, left-hander Steve Kline and now Guillermo Mota to set him up, and Felipe Lira, Mike Johnson and Matt Blank to pitch the middle innings. Kline is the only one who's supposed to be there.

A decimated bullpen is bad luck enough, but demoting Trace Coquilette after already banishing Michael Barrett leaves the Expos with a very light-hitting five-man bench: whoever isn't playing from the third-base platoon of Andy Tracy and Mike Mordecai, utility infielder Geoff Blum, pinch-runner Terry Jones, big brother Wilton Guerrero and backup catcher Lenny Webster.

So in addition to having a bullpen to fear putting into the game, Felipe Alou doesn't even have a group of adequate pinch-hitters to choose from to put in for his starting pitcher at the plate, giving him another incentive to avoid getting to his pen. This hurts an already weak offense, but Alou is used to turning a blind eye to that sort of problem.

NEW YORK METS

Activated RHP Bobby Jones from the DL; optioned LHP Bill Pulsipher to Norfolk. [5/18]

Jones isn't really healed, but the Mets are desperate to live up to their billing. Assuming it really is just a leg problem, working as slowly as he did in his first start might be an adequate way to compensate until it heals, if it heals. Even if he pitches badly, he's a step up from Bill Pulsipher, who still looks finished. It doesn't help matters any that the bloom is off Glendon Rusch.

The Mets are supposed to be shopping for a pitcher as well as some left-handed pop, and Steve Phillips may end up being desperate enough to make a deal he'll regret to get either or both.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed SS Derek Jeter on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/12 (abdominal strain); recalled SS/3B Alfonso Soriano from Columbus. [5/19]

The Yankees are putting the best possible spin on this, which is that Derek Jeter will be back as soon as the two weeks are up. In the midst of the Yankees' offensive problems, losing Jeter for any length of time might be the wakeup call they need to motivate them to make a deal.

In the meantime, this means more playing time for Clay Bellinger; Alfonso Soriano may not be able to handle shortstop any better than he did third base. They ought to simply stick with Soriano, because there is no payoff or benefit for gifting Bellinger or Wilson Delgado with any more playing time than is absolutely necessary.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Recalled RHP Steve Schrenk from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; placed (and lost) LHP Trever Miller on waivers. [5/19]

It's a curious thing indeed. Losing Trever Miller is hardly a major setback, but this is the second pitcher the Phillies have had to send through waivers to keep Steve Schrenk around, the first being Amaury Telemaco. While only one of them got snagged off of waivers, the Phillies need to keep in mind that if they outrighted Schrenk to Scranton, nobody would claim him. I say that despite really enjoying the fact that Schrenk has finally made the majors after years of minor-league ignominy, but there's a difference between being happy for a guy and valuing him for more than he's worth.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed OF Brian Giles to a four-year contract extension; activated RHP Francisco Cordova from the DL; optioned CFs Chad Hermansen and Emil Brown to Nashville; recalled 1B Ivan Cruz from Nashville. [5/19]

Activated RHP Rich Loiselle from the DL; optioned RHP Mike Garcia to Nashville. [5/21]

Coming as it does on the heels of the Jim Edmonds contract, the Brian Giles contract is supposed to be another salvo in Cam Bonifay's cannonade announcing the Pirates' aspiring to middle marketdom, whatever that's supposed to be. It's too bad that it comes at the same time as a move that symbolizes the organization's continued impatience with its own future.

The pattern of the Bucs setting up their prospects to fail continues, as now Chad Hermansen goes down. Like Aramis Ramirez before him, he's been a victim of bad instruction at Nashville, where making contact is emphasized at the expense of taking pitches or learning to select which ones you can drive). The impatience exhibited by giving up in less than 100 at-bats is made worse by the irregular playing time granted Hermansen.

While taking him out of the lineup will help the Pirates in the very near term, with more playing time going to Bruce Aven and John VanderWal, the offensive gain isn't going to be enough to elevate the Bucs over the Cardinals or the Reds this year, and it comes at the expense of Hermansen's future.

The question isn't whether the goal is worthwhile: posting a winning record this year would be a big step up, and the NL wild-card race looks like it will be a dogfight. The question is whether the Pirates are even helping themselves accomplish the goal, or if they aren't hobbling their chances of taking their best shot because they're afraid to try to contend with young players, like the Rangers or Athletics (or with less success, the Astros) have done this year.

The only good thing to come out of this is that at least Ivan Cruz will get some at-bats as the Pirates' left-handed pinch-hitter, making it that much easier to get VanderWal into the lineup.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Recalled RHP Will Cunnane from Las Vegas; optioned RHP Brandon Kolb to Las Vegas. [5/20]

Will Cunnane is the fifth starter, at least temporarily, in a rotation that already has Stan Spencer filling in. Assuming Brian Boehringer skates through his rehab assignment, Cunnane probably won't get another start and will be optioned back to Vegas.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned RHP Kevin Hodges to Tacoma; added LF Rickey Henderson to the active roster. [5/19]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Purchased the contract of RHP Billy Taylor from Durham; optioned RHP Jeff Sparks to Durham; announced that 2B/3B Tony Graffanino cleared waivers and accepted assignment to Durham. [5/19]

Jeff Sparks apparently got into some sort of high-stakes canasta spat with Mike DiFelice, so no matter that he was pitching effectively, he had to make way for someone who can appreciate the AARP code of honor.

As Vince Naimoli would undoubtedly note, "what sort of example are we setting for our fans? Civilization is that thin line that separates a game of shuffleboard from being just an angry old mob armed with sticks. We don't need people getting people out if they can't get along with others."

TEXAS RANGERS

Recalled RHP Dan Kolb from Oklahoma City; optioned LHP Doug Davis to Oklahoma City. [5/18]

With Justin Thompson out for the year--and misidentified as the key player in the Juan Gonzalez deal for it--it looks like Mark Clark is the fifth starter for the indefinite future at the back end of the rotation of Rick Helling, Kenny Rogers, Esteban Loaiza and Darren Oliver. While I've been more than happy to credit the Rangers for a number of things they've done well to build a competitive team for this season while working in a couple of younger hitters, that's an expensive, mediocre rotation behind Helling.

There's still a very good chance that a good month or two by Doug Davis, combined with Clark's continued scuffling, would get Davis the fifth spot for the remainder of the season, although Ryan Glynn might work his way into the picture. Matt Perisho deserves some consideration, but that grisly middle-relief outing that has fragged his season stats may keep Johnny Oates from keeping him in mind.

Because the Rangers are basically sold on keeping a dozen pitchers all year, Dan Kolb could be up for keeps, which means Perisho may end up having to go through waivers at some point in the next couple of months after all.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Purchased the contracts of RHP Darwin Cubillan and DH Todd Greene from Syracuse; optioned SS Chris Woodward to Syracuse; designated LHP Eric Gunderson for assignment; designated 3B Casey Blake for assignment. [5/19]

Who...I say who?...is Darwin Cubillan? You've got me. I can tell you that he's supposed to be skinny, and that he was signed out of the Yankees' organization as a minor-league free agent. I can tell you that he was pitching in Tampa last year, and that as a 24-year-old, it wasn't that surprising that he was pretty good against the younger competition. But I really have no idea who he is, what he throws and what to expect from him. By the time I'd sorted this much out, it was too late to buzz the Yankees and see if there's something more to know.

In the Jays' ongoing bullpen reshuffle, they've now got Billy Koch, John Frascatore, Bloody Paul Quantrill and Cubillan from the right side, and Pedro Borbon and Lance Painter from the left. That's beginning to resemble an organized pen, and with Frank Castillo starting to pitch adequately, the Jays' staff might be a bit more organized.

On the other hand, there seems to be no good reason to have Todd Greene around. If he's going to DH versus left-handed pitching instead of Marty Cordova, why keep Cordova? Why promote Greene over Andy Thompson in the first place, especially since Thompson's a better hitter than Cordova as well? Why not go with the best if you're going to carry three DHs and only one utility infielder? Jacob Brumfield might be gone, but the mindset that had him playing last year is still here.

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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