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June 7, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 1-4, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Transferred SS Gary DiSarcina from the 15- to the 60-day DL; added SS Kevin Stocker to the active roster; optioned 2B Keith Luuloa to Edmonton. [6/2]

Kevin Stocker is an improvement on Benji Gil; neither shortstop is much with the glove, but Stocker provides some OBP to a team that can always use the help.

The poor decision is to dismiss Keith Luuloa, who has a good mix of offensive skills and can play multiple positions, in favor of keeping Gil, who plays roughly like Ozzie Guillen. If Gil isn't starting, he has no value, whereas Luuloa is a good bench player and even a threat to outplay Adam Kennedy, given a chance.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Acquired LHP Bill Pulsipher from the Mets for UT Lenny Harris. [6/2]

While it doesn't look like an earth-shattering move, the plus side of the deal is that no matter what, the Snakes won't have to worry about wasting playing time on Lenny Harris anymore. Their bench will be significantly stronger, whether they keep Craig Counsell or bring back Danny Klassen. They'll be able to afford the roster space even after Travis Lee and Erubiel Durazo come back, although for postseason purposes they'll have to give thought to spending that roster spot on an extra outfielder so that they can have a pinch-hitter with sock.

As for bringing in Pully the Sullen, the question isn't whether the Snakes can use him. Nobody can. But with Todd Stottlemyre hurt and the Big Unit out for a start, compounding the dangers already faced by a rotation employing the perpetually fragile Armando Reynoso, Buck Showalter and Mark Connor need anything resembling an adequate sixth or seventh starter. Pulsipher stretches the resemblance almost beyond the point of recognition, which makes for an interesting dilemma for Arizona.

If they really do need a starting pitcher for any length of time, they'll either have to run with Nelson Figueroa or go shopping. Showalter always likes to avoid a young starting pitcher if he can, which means however hard the Dodgers or Rockies end up pushing the Snakes this year, the real damage will happen if they can get Arizona to field offers for Jack Cust.

BOSTON RED SOX

Optioned IF Andy Sheets and RHP John Wasdin to Pawtucket; recalled RHPs Dan Smith and Rob Stanifer from Pawtucket. [6/3]

As an observer, it's always been an interesting game to speculate how much or how badly the Duke would start to twitch if he gets desperate. Last year, the Red Sox weren't really pushed down the stretch for the wild card and the Yankees weren't going to be caught. There was relative safety in knowing that there wasn't too much that could change their position in the standings. This year, the Yankees can be had. Set aside how tempting the prize is when we're talking about slaying the pinstriped dragon. The Duke is more than Red Sox management, he's blighted by also being a fan. I'm not going to pretend that I know that makes him more prone to get silly when push comes to shove and he's desperate to keep his team's nose in front of the aging Bronx menace, but it has to be a possibility.

Yankees fans can probably afford a chuckle, on the off chance that this is karma's way of evening things up for that far-off summer of 1988. That year, one hot weekend out of Tommy Brookens was enough to bring Billy Martin's managerial career to an end and let Lou Piniella trash one of Saint Donnie Baseball's few shots at postseason glory. Don't doubt that Red Sox fans still warm their flinty hearts thinking about that.

These are the things I end up thinking about as I ponder the latest Red Sox scrambles. Rob Stanifer is looking theoretically useful, courtesy of a 0.60 ERA in a whopping 15 innings, and Dan Smith's 3.48 ERA and 51 baserunners in 41 1/3 innings are almost enough to make you overlook the ten taters he's allowed. Smith did have a nifty debut against these same Red Sox last year, and he might be adequate as a middle reliever. While John Wasdin has been uncharacteristically wild this year, he has been a good middle reliever for three years. It looks like the Duke is making punitive demotions to somehow make his presence felt.

He'd do the Sox a bigger favor if he spent his time shopping for a left fielder to replace Troy O'Leary. While O'Leary was a great waiver-wire pickup and a source for a good brag or two, he hasn't been a good-hitting outfielder since 1997. The Sox need to move beyond feeling good about getting him for nothing and stop letting the old standard of "better than Greenwell" spoil their appetite for bigger and better things out of a prime offensive position.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned 1B Julio Zuleta to Iowa; recalled CF Gary Matthews Jr. from Iowa. [6/2]

In their desperate drive to promote what little credibility they have left, Andy MacPhail and Ed Lynch have used Julio Zuleta as an example of the kind of neat prospects they've got on the way. That's tremendously unfair to Zuleta, who at best might become an adequate platoon caddy for Hee Seop Choi.

Little Sarge is a decent glove man and a switch-hitting spare outfielder who has "pinch-hitter" stapled all over him. He isn't a better player than Robin Jennings or Pedro Valdes were, but he might help the Cubs draw better from the less-drunken over-30 demographic among those who remember his old man fondly.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Placed IF Craig Wilson on the 15-day DL (back); purchased the contract of IF Tony Graffanino from Charlotte. [6/3]

Craig Wilson had turned into a nifty part of Jerry Manuel's arcane five-headed platoon swapping time among first base, third base and DH. He was the guy to spot against left-handed pitchers and put in for defense. He was also the only player on the roster who could really back up Ray Durham at second base.

Without him, the Sox are left with Herb Perry as their defensive replacement. I kid you not, the Sox are convinced the man with no knees is better than Greg Norton. Graffanino is a decent bat and a nifty utility infielder in the Craig Grebeck mold: he can hit and get on base, he's best at second base and he does brief standup acts at shortstop and third base. If Manuel wasn't going to pull Jose Valentin before, he'll never do it now.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed OF Alex Ochoa on the 15-day DL (emergency appendectomy); recalled 1B D.T. Cromer from Louisville. [6/1]

Dante Bichette's mild warm streak has temporarily nixed Alex Ochoa's shot at swiping the right-field job. Ochoa might lose as much as a month to this stroke of bad luck, but he won't have to worry about his job security in the meantime.

What losing Ochoa does for the Reds right now is give them an extended look at D.T. Cromer off the bench, and the guy whose job security will rightfully be at stake when Ochoa returns is Hal Morris. The Reds will have to choose between the better player or the leftover good-luck charm from 1990. Then Jack McKeon will again have the tough decision about whether or not he ought to improve on a lineup whose worst player is still Bichette.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated 2B Damion Easley from the DL; optioned RHP Brandon Villafuerte to Toledo. [6/2]

The only way this matters is if a healthy Damion Easley is in play on the trade market. Otherwise, his playing time only holds value for what he brings to the team defensively versus Gregg Jefferies. Offensively, Easley is another one of the Tigers' wall of medium- to low-wattage sluggers with no patience; he adds nothing.

For all the shrieking about how much Comerica Park is "hurting" the Tigers' offense, they were one of the worst offensive teams in the league in Tiger Stadium, too: 12th in the AL in both runs scored and Equivalent Average. Dropping from 12th to their current 14th might highlight the ballpark's drastic effect, but that isn't too far to fall. The problem is not the ballpark: it's the lineup and the people who put that lineup together.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Activated RHP Jay Powell from the DL; outrighted RHP Kip Gross to New Orleans; recalled CF Glen Barker from New Orleans; optioned RHP Jose Cabrera to New Orleans. [6/2]

For as bad as things have been, you would think the Astros would gird themselves to be a bit more bold. Jay Powell's return should be helpful, but given the choice from among calling up Wade Miller (now pitching in relief in New Orleans), keeping Jose Cabrera and keeping Doug Henry, the Astros decided to retain the big contract while trading Russ Johnson to get an adequate journeyman like Marc Valdes. And why was Kip Gross around in the first place?

Operating without a safety net can mean for a rough landing, but it also means there's nothing left to lose once you've left a Wile E. Coyote-sized pit in the ground. The Astros need to start tossing the fragments of what might have been, like Henry contributing to a bullpen on a division-leading team, and get on to using the talent at hand to make themselves better.

Glen Barker's callup is an adjustment to life without Roger Cedeno. Both Daryle Ward and Lance Berkman can use a defensive replacement, assuming that Barker can defense Billy Wagner's whiplash-inducing blasts.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Extended the contract of 3B Joe Randa through 2001. [6/2]

Activated OF Todd Dunwoody and C Gregg Zaun from the DL; recalled RHP Jeff D'Amico from Omaha; designated C Jorge Fabregas for assignment; optioned OF Mark Quinn to Omaha. [6/3]

In what's come to be a hallmark of the Herk Robinson regime, the Royals manage to spin their wheels, helping and hurting themselves equally. Gregg Zaun's return gives the Royals a good catcher who could definitely help the lineup more than Brian Johnson, but Todd Dunwoody is last winter's bad idea coming home to roost, and worse yet, it comes at Mark Quinn's expense.

Quinn has already lost out to Dave McCarty's blistering hot streak, and his outspoken sense of self-worth probably hasn't done anything to win friends and influence people. Nevertheless, as he'll tell you, Quinn is a good hitter with nothing left to learn in Omaha. Turning him into a latter-day Bombo Rivera is a waste of obvious talent.

As hot as McCarty has been, it hasn't been hot enough to erase the last five years, when McCarty gave all of us ample reason to believe he wasn't going to turn into a star. It's great to see him finally get a shot at playing; the real problem is that McCarty isn't the problem.

Demoting Quinn leaves the Royals with two left-handed hitting backup outfielders who can play center field: the light-hitting Dunwoody and aspiring journeyman Scott Pose. Pose, like McCarty, is a guy who spent too many years of his prime in Triple-A. While Pose, like McCarty, makes for a feel-good story about a guy finally getting his break, there comes a point where a team has to stop collecting sob stories and start playing the guys with talent. The Royals should have been in a situation where they would have to make a choice between Dunwoody and Pose, and it says volumes about them that they could not make that choice and instead punished a young player.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Optioned DH/C Adam Melhuse to Albuquerque; recalled C Paul LoDuca from Albuquerque. [6/1]

Placed PH Geronimo Berroa on the 15-day DL (bruised foot); designated LHP Trever Miller for assignment; recalled LHP Onan Masaoka from Albuquerque; purchased the contract of UT Shawn Gilbert from Albuquerque. [6/3]

At what point was picking up Trever Miller supposed to make sense if they weren't going to give him a couple of weeks? If Miller was being judged on performance, he would never have been picked up. If the Dodgers decided to keep him around on the basis of a scouting report, they need to reevaluate their scouts. The bottom line is that there never was a point where keeping Miller over Onan Masaoka made any kind of sense.

Shawn Gilbert is an aging career utilityman who doesn't bring much to the table offensively, but having him around does free up Davey Johnson as far as putting utilityman F.P. Santangelo to work regularly.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated C/PH Tyler Houston from the DL; placed OF Lyle Mouton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/27 (strained hamstring); announced that RHP Hector Ramirez refused his assignment to Indianapolis and opted for free agency. [6/2]

Placed SS Mark Loretta on the 15-day DL (fractured bone - foot); recalled SS Santiago Perez from Indianapolis. [6/3]

Losing Mark Loretta is a tough blow. The Brewers are a very average offensive club that needs every bit of OBP it can get, and having Loretta and Ronnie Belliard gave them a potent pair at the top of the order.

In Loretta's absence, Davey Lopes has an interesting choice. He could go with veteran Luis Lopez, but Lopez singlehandedly lost Friday night's game to the Rockies with his glovework. Steve Woodard came in with the bases juiced in the fourth inning. His sinker was hopping, but Lopez couldn't convert easy groundballs into outs after he'd come off the bench to replace the injured Loretta.

So now Santiago Perez is up, and at 24 he probably deserves the top job. He has a reputation for great glovework and he's always had decent power and good speed. This year, he's continued to show those skills (.291/.353/.419 and 15/5 SB/CS with Indianapolis) while improving his walk rate enough (20 in 205 PAs) to give you reason to think he could be a handy regular in the bottom of the order. If Davey Lopes decides to help himself, he'll keep Lopez in the utility role while taking a long look at Perez.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Designated LHP Jim Poole for assignment; optioned 3B Andy Tracy to Ottawa; recalled RHP T.J. Tucker from Harrisburg (Double-A). [6/2]

Jim Poole, released? After the first half-dozen times, does a player develop a sixth sense for this sort of thing? Or are some people born with it? Maybe he has a divining rod or something. Maybe his car just drives him to the airport one morning, letting him know it's time to move on to the next team.

NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of 1B/OF Ryan McGuire from Norfolk; recalled C Vance Wilson from Norfolk; optioned RHP Jim Mann to Norfolk; designated OF Jon Nunnally for assignment; acquired PH Lenny Harris from the Diamondbacks in exchange for LHP Bill Pulsipher. [6/2]

Added PH Lenny Harris to the active roster; optioned C Vance Wilson to Norfolk. [6/4]

More meaningless thrashing about. The end result is that the Mets called up Jason Tyner, which won't solve any of their problems, especially the mounting self-inflicted wounds. They need a leadoff hitter? They cut Rickey Henderson. They need a left-handed bat? They cut Jon Nunnally without giving him a chance. They need starting pitching? They're already burning through what little they have. They need a shortstop, and they pick up Lenny Harris?

I don't know who to feel more sorry for; the Mets for peddling this collection as the team that was going to dominate the NL, or the number of people, both fans and in the media, who believed them.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Activated DH John Jaha from the DL; optioned 3B Adam Piatt to Sacramento. [6/3]

While hardly a surprise, the choice between John Jaha and Adam Piatt isn't going to get any easier with time. Jaha is virtually untradeable with his injury history and multi-year contract, while Piatt is only going to keep gaining ground on him and Jason Hart isn't that far behind Piatt.

Last winter, Billy Beane re-signed Jaha, Omar Olivares and Randy Velarde as proof of his team's commitment to building on last year's competitiveness. Unfortunately, with Olivares pitching like the rotation's weak link and Jaha and Velarde returning to their usual states of fragility, the price of these sorts of prestige signings ends up being considerably more expensive than the money spent. Not only do the A's lose the money, but multi-year commitments to guys well past 30 eliminate the freedom of action they previously had to solve lineup and pitching problems using the same savvy that brought in Matt Stairs or Olmedo Saenz or Jeremy Giambi or Gil Heredia. That's the kind of inflexibility that a low-budget contender cannot afford.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed LHP Scott Aldred on the 15-day DL (shoulder); purchased the contract of LHP Mark Holzemer from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; optioned RHP Paul Byrd to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; recalled RHP Cliff Politte from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/2]

Take a look at these numbers:

              IP   H  BB  SO  HR
Pitcher A:  44.2  52  21  31   9
Pitcher B:  44.0  40  17  31   9

One of these guys has pitched plenty of garbage time in games already lost, and one of these guys has started those games and done plenty to make them unwinnable. What's missing? The names and the ERAs, of course. Pitcher A is Paul Byrd, with a 7.86 ERA, coming off a season in which he was worked harder than he should have been--like so many Phillies starters--and now hurt. Pitcher B is Chris Brock with a 4.09 ERA, destined to replace Byrd in the rotation on the basis of being the meager product of the organization's inexcusable decision to casually discard Bobby Estalella.

That the Phillies are making this exchange sort of sums up their problems in a nutshell. They managed to blow two good things--nabbing Byrd off the scrap heap and developing Estalella--leaving them with the source of one problem (Terry Francona) and the symptom of another (Brock, as a representative of Phillies talent evaluation). Brock is not a good bet to thrive as a starting pitcher, any more than he was as a Giant or when he was slapped into the Phillies rotation in April. He might pitch a bit better than Byrd did, but not well enough to help in any important way, not well enough to yield an Estalella in trade, and also not well enough that he may have to worry about his long-term health, courtesy of Francona's slow hook.

Meanwhile, Mark Holzemer and Cliff Politte get to join a bullpen already peopled with castoffs and retreads. Both had been pitching well in Scranton: Holzemer had a 3.24 ERA in 38 1/3 innings, while Politte had a 3.02 ERA as a rotation regular, yielding 43 hits and 20 walks in 56 2/3 innings, and posting 53 strikeouts. Politte would be a better choice to enter the rotation than Brock. In Aldred's absence, the Phillies will still have two left-handers in the pen with Holzemer and Bryan Ward.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed LHP Scott Radinsky on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/2 (strained elbow); recalled LHP Jose Rodriguez from Memphis. [6/3]

Scott Radinsky was good for three pitches, all balls, before returning to the DL. That seems just a wee bit egregious for anyone to think it mere coincidence. As far as left-handed relief goes, the Cardinals should be better off taking a good look at Mike Matthews and Jose Rodriguez instead, especially now that they've gotten Mike Mohler out of the way.

The bigger problem is whether or not Walt Jocketty and Tony LaRussa are trying to do too much too early in a season in which this franchise is going for broke. If they fail after three years of sitting around hoping to get lucky, heads probably should roll, on the chance that a manager with a better sense of how to use a pitching staff might be able to pull off what LaRussa never has in St. Louis.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Announced LHP Matt Whisenant cleared waivers and outrighted him to Las Vegas. [6/2]

Placed RHP Donne Wall on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Brandon Kolb from Las Vegas. [6/4]

There's something very, very wrong if GMs are making space on their rosters for the likes of Trever Miller and Jim Poole, but taking a pass on nabbing Matt Whisenant, and I don't think it's something wrong with Whisenant.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated LHP Jamie Moyer from the DL; optioned IF Carlos Guillen to Tacoma. [6/2]

With Jamie Moyer back in the fold, who's left in the rotation? Aaron Sele is still standing, giving the Mariners a good righty/lefty top pairing. John Halama has been strong, and they've still got Brett Tomko and Paul Abbott to fill out the rotation. As an adaptation to Piniella's arm-slagging ways, carrying seven or more starters might be the most effective adaptation Pat Gillick could make in the short term.

If you're expecting me to protest Carlos Guillen's demotion, I'll have to disappoint you. He's not a good enough offensive player to carry at third base, not that John Mabry is. Because Mark McLemore and David Bell can be flip-flopped between second base and third base, the Mariners can afford to shop for either a second baseman or a third baseman to help themselves out. While they could improve themselves defensively in a couple of months by bringing up Jermaine Clark to play second and pushing McLemore and Bell into job-sharing at third, this is Pat Gillick. The Mariners' pitching is still lively enough to keep them in contention for the time being. Expect a trade for a veteran.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Added RHP Tanyon Sturtze to the active roster; designated RHP Billy Taylor for assignment. [6/2]

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed CF Ruben Mateo on the 15-day DL (fractured femur); purchased the contract of OF Scott Podsednik from Tulsa (Double-A); transferred LHP Justin Thompson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/3]

Ruben Mateo's tragic injury makes a clean sweep of the Rangers' Opening Day outfield. The least important aspect of all of this is that it'll cost him the Rookie of the Year award, and the injury may have an impact on his ability to play center field once he returns in 2001.

The most important short-term aspect is that it seriously hurts the Rangers and their ability to contend. While Gabe Kapler should be back within a week, giving them back two-thirds of their starting outfield, neither Jason McDonald nor Chad Curtis are regular center fielders, which means both will start and Scarborough Green will end up being their defensive replacement. Don't be surprised if the Rangers now get serious about playing Frank Catalanotto in the outfield; the alternatives include the horror of bringing Ruben Sierra up. Podsednik is only up until the Rangers either trade for somebody or decide to add Sierra to the 40-man roster; the Rangers aren't afraid of losing him on waivers when they designate him for assignment.

What's really important is that we've lost the chance to watch a great young player play, and you don't have to be a Rangers fan to regret that. Here's hoping that Mateo gets to be another one of the medical miracles we hear about on a regular basis.

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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