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May 26, 2000

Transaction Analysis

May 22-24, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Mark Petkovsek on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/17 (virus). [5/22]

Recalled RHP Brian Cooper from Edmonton. [5/23]

So far, the rotation is safe from Ken Hill and Tim Belcher; they both need more time to recuperate from their injuries.

In some ways, bringing Brian Cooper up for the fourth spot behind Kent Bottenfield, Scott Schoeneweis and Jarrod Washburn gives the Angels their best possible rotation. Cooper doesn't throw any harder than Jason Dickson, but he shares the same good control of a broad assortment of pitches, and Cooper doesn't have Dickson's health problems. The Angels might be best off spreading out work in the fifth spot among Dickson, Hill and Belcher, considering that it's unlikely that all of them will be healthy at the same time. For the next time the slot comes up, however, they're going to call up 1998 #1 pick Seth Etherton.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated 3B Matt Williams off of the DL; optioned IF Danny Klassen to Tucson. [5/23]

What will Matt Williams's return mean for the lineup? Well, he does give them a second right-handed-hitting regular in the lineup, to go with Jay Bell. While it would be wildly optimistic to expect him to hit anywhere as well as he did in 1999, even if he were to lapse to the depths of 1998, he would still be a major improvement over Lenny Harris or Andy Fox.

An unfortunate numbers situation has been created by the commitment to have Harris around. Danny Klassen has demonstrated he deserves to stick around as a utility infielder, but with Williams back to play every day, the D'backs had to look at what he does for them off the bench. Hanley Frias is already around as the defensive substitute for Tony Womack at shortstop. In Greg Colbrunn and Bernard Gilkey, the Snakes have a couple of good right-handed pinch-hitters on the bench, although with as many left-handed hitters as they have in the lineup, you would think the league would be spotting more left-handed starters against Arizona.

If that happened, then there would be no case for keeping Harris over Klassen, whereas right now, there are superficial reasons to do so, and Klassen has an option left. But if the Snakes make the playoffs and again waste a roster spot on Harris, they'll deserve another quick postseason exit.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated OF Reggie Sanders off of the DL; optioned UT Steve Sisco to Richmond. [5/23]

Returned RHP Kevin McGlinchy to the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled RHP Kerry Ligtenberg from Richmond. [5/24]

While Reggie Sanders hasn't done much yet besides get hurt, the Braves' pitchers should be letting out a sigh of relief to about switching Sanders in for Bobby Bonilla in left field. While Bonilla has hit well, his range factor is less than a play made per nine innings, which is plain old bad no matter how you slice it or how many reservations you have about defensive statistics. Assuming Sanders starts to hit, that leaves the Braves' bench littered with weapons: Wally Joyner and Keith Lockhart from the left side, the switch-hitting Bonilla and lefty masher Trenidad Hubbard.

As for the Kevin McGlinchy/Kerry Ligtenberg switch, it looks like everyone spoke too soon, as it now looks like McGlinchy is staring at the possibility of major surgery. Losing him really puts Ligtenberg on the spot, because the Braves aren't really that far off from having no reliable right-handed relievers. Rudy Seanez didn't get the nickname "Traction Action" for nothing, and Greg McMichael is basically a nice mop-up memory and old favorite. While the news from his brief stint in the minors was promising, if Ligtenberg continues to have problems throwing his breaking stuff, the Braves will either have to give Luis Rivera a return call-up, or join the half-dozen other teams that shopping for right-handed relief help.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed 3B Shane Andrews on the 15-day DL (back), retroactive to 5/15. [5/21]

Purchased the contract of OF Raul Gonzalez from Iowa; designated LHP Brian McNichol for assignment. [5/23]

This is the Cubs' way of completing the daisy chain: last winter, Bo Porter was taken off the 40-man roster because the Cubs said they didn't need a right-handed hitter with power who could play all three outfield positions. Porter is nabbed in the Rule 5 draft, and even when given the chance to return to the Cubs, refuses because he'd rather play in Sacramento than put up with the Cubs' shenanigans.

Six months later, the Cubs need a right-handed hitter with power who can play all three outfield spots, and they're so hard up for one, they decide to try to pass one of their several soft-tossing left-handers through waivers, which they could have done six months ago to keep Bo Porter.

Raul Gonzalez epitomizes what the Cubs seem to value nowadays: a four-time Double-A repeater with good athletic skills. He won't fit the bill for what the Cubs want--right-handed power off the bench--and they blew their opportunity to instead call up Chris Hatcher to provide that power, not to mention give him a shot at one of his old organizations, the Rockies.

The underlying logic? There isn't any, not from the team that goofed off with Tarrik Brock this year or Curtis Goodwin last year. While Ed Lynch's Cubs aren't quite as epically bad at handling their roster as Lou Gorman's Red Sox or Larry Doughty's Pirates, they're pretty adept at throwing away players they could have used.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Activated C Brook Fordyce from the DL; recalled RHP Kip Wells from Charlotte; optioned C Josh Paul to Charlotte; designated RHP Tanyon Sturtze for assignment. [5/23]

Slowly but surely, the Sox roster starts to take shape, something that has to happen for them to maintain their slim lead on the Tribe. Brook Fordyce gives the Sox an offensive improvement from the catcher's spot, and while some people are still nattering about last year's problems with throwing out baserunners, that was only a problem in the first two months of 1999.

While Josh Paul gets some people excited as a prospect of sorts, he's been pretty cold for a month at the plate since his hot start, and considering he'll swing at everything, that's a problem that won't go away. He is a potentially swell backup catcher: he can throw, he runs pretty well and he's not Chris Tremie with the bat. He doesn't look like he's going to turn into a good regular.

Kip Wells's return to the rotation and his good first start make the rumors about whether or not the Sox will try to acquire an "ace" starter all the more interesting. The names currently being tossed around are Brad Radke, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. Radke is not likely to re-sign with the Sox after the season, and the team should probably try to avoid helping the Twins too much in the near future, anyway. Schilling is a re-injury waiting to happen. While Jerry Manuel would probably not give in to Schilling's refusals to be pulled from games he's in the process of losing, and while that could lead to a better performance from Schilling, I think it's far too great a risk. Mussina, though, makes all kinds of sense, and with the low payroll the Sox currently have, they could afford to be generous when it comes time to re-sign him.

But all of this speculation generates a question: who gets bumped from the rotation if the Sox bring somebody in? Wells? He's a definite member of any future Sox rotation, and may well be fine from here on out. Jim Parque or Mike Sirotka? Doubtful considering that both have good-sized deals. Cal Eldred? They seem to like what he's doing so far. The problem is that everyone is pitching well enough that nobody is an obvious candidate to be replaced. That might dampen any willingness to make a move.

The roster move the Sox really need to make is to get down from the 12 pitchers they're carrying. The best solution would be to dump one of the infrequently used mop-up men, either Scott Eyre or Kevin Beirne. Probably Beirne because he has options. They need either a backup center fielder or a utility infielder who can play second base. Lacking both has begun to be a problem with Ray Durham scuffling through a dry spell and Chris Singleton needing a rest day now and again because of a hand injury.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed LHP Andrew Lorraine to a minor-league contract; acquired RHP Richie Lewis from the New York Mets for a PTBNL; signed RHP Reggie Harris. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of RHP Tim Drew from Akron (Double-A); placed RHP Paul Shuey on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/21 (hip strain). [5/24]

A definitely mixed bag of moves for the Tribe. Andrew Lorraine will be a fine left-handed reliever if that's what the Tribe wants, and it didn't even cost somebody like Brian Giles to bring him in.

The multiple injuries have had a ripple effect throughout the organization, something the Tribe cannot afford on a couple of levels. While they obviously suffer at the major-league level by losing Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright, the rash of call-ups have hurt the Buffalo Bisons. While that usually doesn't mean much to most organizations, the important point is that it's happning to the Bisons, and the Rich family doesn't run their team as slavishly as most affiliates. They expect to field a contender in the International League, and the Indians have to help them pull it off. Hence the pickups of Richie Lewis and Reggie Harris, a pair of veterans to shore up the Bisons' staff.

As for calling up Tim Drew now, chalk this up as another one of John Hart's follies, where he seems to have drawn another wrong conclusion from past experience. Having seen an older, more advanced pitcher like Paul Rigdon succeed, he raced to call up Drew despite the right-hander having less than two months of experience above A ball. For one start? Why, then, was Jim Brower called up at all?

Losing Paul Shuey just adds to the Indians' woes. The farm system doesn't offer much immediate help. Sean DePaula is already up, and other than J.D. Brammer at Akron, there isn't much in the way of real talent. What the Tribe really needs is for Steve Reed and Scott Kamieniecki to start pitching effectively. DePaula, Reed and the Polish Prince ought to be a solid middle-relief cadre, but the Tribe's past bullpen disasters would make anybody anxious.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Extended the contract of manager Tony Muser through 2002. [5/24]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Optioned LHP Onan Masaoka to Albuquerque; added LHP Trever Miller to the active roster. [5/22]

It's a strange preference to pick Trever Miller, as badly as he's been pitching, over Onan Masaoka. It's not a question of talent; Masaoka has great stuff, while Miller is primarily known for being left-handed. It isn't really like Miller is that much more experienced, either, with his whopping two years of being on a roster over Masaoka's one.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Recalled LHP Rafael Roque from Indianapolis; optioned LHP Horacio Estrada to Indianapolis. [5/22]

Activated RHP Jamey Wright off of the DL; optioned LHP Rafael Roque to Indianapolis. [5/23]

With Jamey Wright's return, Steve Woodard gets bumped into the pen. This won't last. John Snyder isn't likely to be in the rotation for more than a month or two, as the Brewers scrape the egg off their faces from the Jaime Navarro trade by demonstrating that they did get somebody in the deal, and I'm still a Jason Bere doubter instead of a Berever.

As is, Davey Lopes and pitching coach Bob Apodaca seem to have done a fine job of rebuilding their rotation on the fly. Bere and Jimmy Haynes are being sturdily mediocre, and Jeff D'Amico's return (after considerable rehab) may turn out to be a model for how the Cubs should have handled Kerry Wood. Eric Ludwick might be their next retread coup. Add in that Ben Sheets will probably be ready for a late season cup of coffee, and the Brewers are beginning to look like they'll have a very sturdy rotation in time for their arrival at Miller Park.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Claimed 3B Casey Blake off of waivers from the Blue Jays; designated LHP Benj Sampson for assignment. [5/23]

Casey Blake is a nice little pickup despite his slow start at Syracuse. If the Twins manage to peddle Ron Coomer to a contender, he could be a handy enough right-handed-hitting caddy for Corey Koskie.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Transferred RHP Scott Strickland from the 15- to the 60-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); activated C Charlie O'Brien; placed LHP Matt Blank on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/19 (strained forearm). [5/24]

As unfortunate as losing four primary relievers is, the Expos seem to be going out of their way to make a bad situation worse. Why add another backup catcher who can't hit to caddy for second-string cult hero Lenny Webster? The Expos are very interested in keeping Charlie O'Brien in the organization in some capacity while trying to prod him into coaching, but they're also trying to be competitive. Recalling Trace Coquillette would have made a lot more sense, especially with Andy Tracy's limited range at third base becoming painfully obvious.

NEW YORK METS

Traded RHP Richie Lewis to the Indians for a PTBNL. [5/22]

Signed 2B Jed Hansen to a minor-league contract. [5/24]

Jed Hansen is a nice pickup, especially since Norfolk's infield is kind of jumbled. Mitch Simons and Kevin Baez are just aspiring utility infielders, while David Lamb might grow up to be Mitch Simons or Kevin Baez. Hansen gives Norfolk a little bit of power where they don't have any, which should help them try to catch Durham.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled IF Frank Menechino from Sacramento; outrighted SS Jorge Velandia to Sacramento. [5/24]

It took a couple of weeks for the A's to sort out who deserved to be where, which is unfortunate. Jorge Velandia might be claimed, but he wouldn't be missed. As the saying goes, if you beat the bushes, a couple of gloves always fall out. Frank Menechino gives the A's a utility infielder who can hit, and he may also end up getting a shot at platooning with Eric Chavez now that it looks like Olmedo Saenz's days as a third baseman are numbered.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed RHP Carlos Reyes to a minor-league contract with an assignment to Las Vegas. [5/22]

Carlos Reyes returns to familiar territory, having been a Pad person in the past. Considering the Padres' problems stocking their staff, he may end up coming back to fill the fifth-starter slot that Brian Boehringer won't be returning to when he comes off the DL. While Reyes is obviously getting older, he's always relied on his changeup first and foremost, so he may have some life left in his arm.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Activated OF Ellis Burks from the DL; optioned RHP Ben Weber to Fresno. [5/24]

Ellis Burks comes back at an awkward time. In his absence, both Armando Rios and Terrell Lowery have been outstanding, while neither Felipe Crespo nor Calvin Murray have done anything to lose their jobs. The man in danger ought to be Marvin Benard, but his long-term contract keeps him relatively safe.

It's unlikely that the Giants will stick with 10 pitchers for long. While Joe Nathan is probably headed off on a rehab assignment, Ben Weber blew his brief chance to hang around. That might open up a brief opportunity for Steve Connelly or Robbie Crabtree. The loser for that roster spot? The Giants have a tough choice from among their backup outfielders.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated RHP Jim Mecir off of the DL; optioned RHP Cory Lidle to Durham. [5/23]

Jim Mecir's return is a boon for a bullpen struggling almost as badly as the rotation it follows. Cory Lidle had been more effective than Billy Taylor or Albie Lopez, but the Devil Rays won't let that sort of nagging detail keep them from doing something silly.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Announced LHP Eric Gunderson has cleared waivers and outrighted him to Syracuse. [5/23]

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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