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June 9, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 5-7, 2000

by Christina Kahrl


Outrighted 2B Keith Luuloa to Edmonton. [6/6]


Recalled IF Danny Klassen from Tucson; optioned RHP Nelson Figueroa to Tucson. [6/5]

Nelson Figueroa was only up for a single start as the Snakes jumbled their rotation to compensate for Todd Stottlemyre's trip to the DL and Randy Johnson's need to skip a start. Right now, the expectation is that Stottlemyre will be able to come back by the end of next week, just about in time for Arizona to swing through Colorado. While that's a lousy place to try to come back from an injury, the Rox are making a fun run at the Snakes.

Figueroa had a decent start, good enough to encourage Joe Garagiola Jr. and Buck Showalter to call him back. Between Stottlemyre's bum shoulder and Armando Reynoso's congenital fragility, chances are that the Snakes are going to need him down the stretch.

Bringing Danny Klassen back gives Arizona the always-fun situation of having every possible kind of hitter among their utility infielders: Klassen right-handed, Craig Counsell bats left-handed and Hanley Frias is a switch-hitter. Counsell and Klassen would be an outstanding platoon if they played regularly, probably better than a half-dozen other NL second-base situations. Of course, considering the minimal production that the Snakes are getting from Turner Ward and Bernard Gilkey in right field, it wouldn't be hard for the Cranny Klassell platoon to outhit them.


Optioned LHP John Rocker to Richmond as well as fining him for inappropriate conduct; recalled RHP Jason Marquis from Greenville (Double-A). [6/5]

Why is John Rocker struggling? I won't pretend to know. I'll leave the pop psychology to others, because all that really needs to be said is that Rocker was pitching badly and shouldn't come back until he's able to pitch like he did in 1999. As long as he's wilder than Jacob Shumate (and don't laugh about that because Shumate is almost down to a walk per inning pitched for the first time in his career now that he's closing in Greenville), Rocker is not doing anybody any good.

In his absence, the bullpen will continue to thrive with the usual suspects: Mike Remlinger will get most of the save opportunities, and Kerry Ligtenberg will also get chances as he rounds back into form and as situational needs dictate.

The decision to promote Jason Marquis makes for an interesting contrast. Marquis is an organizational favorite because of a live fastball and a great attitude towards taking instructions from his coaches. That doesn't exactly make him the anti-Rocker, but it does make for a clean break with the past.

As a starter at Greenville, Marquis was pitching well: 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA, with 68 hits and 23 walks allowed in 68 innings. His ERA was lower than you'd expect, courtesy of eight unearned runs, and he has given up ten home runs. He's also extremely young at 21, but reserving him for bullpen duties will be an excellent way of preserving his arm while giving him an opportunity to flash his heat, a nice curve and changeup. Like Kevin McGlinchy, he could end up being a star in the Braves rotation starting in 2003.


Signed RHPs Brian Williams and Tyler Green to minor-league contracts. [6/6]

Returned RHP Jaret Wright to the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/3 (shoulder inflammation); activated RHP Paul Rigdon from the DL. [6/7]

So Wright's hurt again after being rushed back again, just as he was in 1999. At who should we point the finger? Mike Hargrove is gone and Charlie Manuel is in his first months on the job. Dick Pole is only the latest Tribe pitching coach to come in charged with fixing everything at once.

No, the lone constant from among those who can be held accountable is the architect of Indian greatness as well as weakness, John Hart. This isn't the first time that Hart has let temporary contingencies dictate roster management, and not just with Wright. While Wright had been making progress under Pole's tutelage, he'd probably have been better off getting to recover fully instead of coming back as soon as he was eligible.

The only positive is that so far the Tribe isn't resurrecting anyone like Mark Langston or Tom Candiotti or Doc Gooden. Last year's penalties for last year's mistakes have hopefully conveyed that much of a lesson to Hart. While using Rigdon and Jim Brower as your fourth and fifth starters doesn't sound ideal, it's a far sight better than wasting any more time on Bobby Witt.

The downside of trusting Brower and Rigdon (and Justin Speier and Mark Watson and now Jamie Brewington) with roster spots and roles they can handle is that Buffalo's pitching staff is in tatters. Cleveland, unlike most major-league teams, tends to make a good effort to let the Rich family run the Bisons as a competitive franchise, instead of holding them in the semi-slavery most Triple-A affiliates endure. That has benefits, at least if you're from Buffalo and care about the International League standings, and hazards: signing Williams and Green isn't a good idea, but it keeps Buffalo stocked while the Bisons try to fend off Pawtucket and a surprising Scranton team. Even after adding Richie Lewis and Andrew Lorraine, the Bisons are shorthanded. Beyond losing the callups, Tim Drew looks like he's been rushed to Triple-A, let alone the majors, and Willie Martinez has been awful.


Activated LHP Sean Runyan from the DL and optioned him to Toledo. [6/5]

Where is Sean Runyan's roster spot now that he's healthy? First the organization frags him in the course of getting him the cachet of holding the pitching appearances record for a rookie, and now it's "what have you done for Randy Smith lately?"

The answer is that it isn't really his fault. The Tigers have just bumped left-hander C.J. Nitkowski from the rotation so that they can take another exciting spin with that jetstream-generating moundsman, Willie "Air" Blair. With Nitkowski and Allen McDill in the pen, the Tigers already have two lefties, which leaves Runyan rehoning his craft. A couple of good weeks, and he'll be back up at McDill's expense, no doubt being offered as proof that Randy Smith has been "developing" talent all along.


Optioned RHP Vladimir Nunez to Calgary; activated OF Mark Smith from the DL. [6/5]

Vladimir Nunez's struggles this year shouldn't surprise anybody too much. He struggled terribly as a starter after coming over from the Snakes in the Matt Mantei trade last year, and he started off 2000 right where he left off.

What's surprising is that they didn't elect to bump him back into the bullpen, where he was very effective last year while pitching for Arizona. The bullpen needs the help. Antonio Alfonseca can only aspire to be the next Matt Karchner for some appropriately stupid and desperate team. Dan Miceli is on the DL, leaving Braden Looper as the only promising right-handed reliever in the pen. While I'm sure Dave Dombrowski wishes he could brag that he got two-fifths of his rotation for Matt Mantei, for the time being he needs to settle for one good young starter and one good young reliever.

In his absence, the Fish can spot either Ron Mahay or Ricky Bones in the rotation. Alex Fernandez won't be back for a while, but A.J. Burnett may be ready before the end of the month.

Mark Smith won't even get time at DH now that he's back and the Fish go into a series against the Devil Rays: that playing time should go to whichever of Derrek Lee and Kevin Millar is not playing first base.


Placed 2B Carlos Febles on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); purchased the contract of IF Ray Holbert from Omaha. [6/5]

Carlos Febles's unfortunate tendency to accumulate little injuries is becoming a bit of a problem. As a group, second basemen suffer a lot of damage and lose a good chunk of their prospective careers to these sorts of nicks. A future research project with some merit would be to see if second basemen are even more at risk than catchers. I know it's something I've wondered about over the years.

At any rate, if Febles can keep bouncing back, he'll get to avoid the fates of guys like Brent Gates.

One of the fun things for us innocent bystanders is to take note of one of Tony Muser's more amusing idiosyncracies: he likes set lineups. He likes them so much that when one of his regulars is missing, Muser will usually slap his replacement into the same spot in the lineup as he'd put the starter. So when Febles goes to the DL, Jeff Reboulet gets to bat second, and the Royals offense gets a bit of OBP juice at the top of the order. And if Rey Sanchez goes down, chances are Reboulet will get to bat ninth, because that's just where shortstops hit in Muser's world.

Now I know, and most of you know, it generally shouldn't add up to much in terms of runs scored: it's more important to identify who should play than it is to sort out what order they should bat in.


Placed RHP Jeff D'Amico on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/6 (shoulder tendinitis). [6/7]

Recalled RHP Allen Levrault from Indianapolis. [6/8]

Losing Jeff D'Amico is conveniently timed, even setting aside D'Amico's statement that he doesn't feel like his shoulder hurts. It gives the Brewers the chance to set one poor move aright by getting Steve Woodard back into the rotation, and it gives them another couple of starts to see if John Snyder is going to do anything that keeps them from being even more humiliated about this winter's Jaime Navarro/Cal Eldred trade. Eventually, the Brewers will have to choose from among their various options for the rotation behind Woodard, Jamey Wright and Jimmy Haynes; the team is going to get awfully tired of Snyder and Jason Bere.

Among their future alternatives, Allen Levrault is somebody they'll look at as a middle reliever for the time being. After being last year's minor-league pitcher of the year, Levrault is better suited for relief for now. He hasn't mastered breaking pitches, which at 22 isn't such a bad thing. He throws hard and mixes in a nice changeup. Flipping between the rotation and the pen for Indianapolis, his performance was mixed: he put up a 4.75 ERA, giving up 43 hits and 19 walks in 41 2/3 innings, with 28 strikeouts. If the Brewers leave him alone as a long reliever for a couple of years, he could grow into a fine starter.

The Brewers had other choices: Ben Sheets is pitching very well, and long-time Four-A pitcher Eric Ludwick is having an outstanding season for Indianapolis (2.67 ERA). Performances like Ludwick's should only make the Brewers' experience with Navarro, Snyder and Bere all the more bitter. Finding adequate pitching help isn't that hard, as long as you aren't hung up on major-league experience.


Activated RHP Anthony Telford from the DL. [6/4]

Placed C Lenny Webster on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); gave LHP Jim Poole his outright release. [6/7]

Chris Widger is almost ready to come off of the DL, which creates some options for the Expos. Brian Schneider is looking like he'd be a good left-handed-hitting caddy for Widger, which could free up the Expos to peddle Charlie O'Brien for anything resembling an adequate reliever, something they desperately need. If their season and their wild-card dreams go up in smoke before the end of July, they could even turn around and peddle Widger. That might get them to do the right thing by Michael Barrett and move him back behind the plate, so that he and Schneider could then share the job. And if the Expos really are gearing up to leave Montreal after all, they can let the Quebecois keep le Webster.


Recalled OF Jason Tyner from Norfolk; designated 1B/OF Ryan McGuire for assignment. [6/5]

Sure enough, Jason Tyner is up to bat leadoff. Is it really that neat an idea? While the Mets take flak for having one of the worst outfields in terms of hitting for power, and they could help themselves out on that front, keep in mind that they're also getting more power than most teams from second base (Edgardo Alfonzo) and catcher (Mike Piazza). As long as they find the right players for the right roles (leadoff, middle-of-the-order hitters, and so on), who cares what positions they play?

As an argument, it all almost adds up, until you come up against players like Tyner. While he is supposed to be a leadoff hitter on the basis of his minor-league track record (he was hitting .342/.402/.383 at Norfolk), a leadoff hitter is somebody who works his way on base. Tyner may yet grow into being a good on-base guy, but 21 walks in 249 plate appearances with the Tides doesn't strike me as the makings of a great leadoff hitter.

The current comparison is to Brett Butler, as usual, since Tyner is white, fast and plays center field. There are shortcomings to the snapshot: he's probably faster than Butler was without being as good afield or as patient at the plate.

While Tyner should turn out to be a semi-useful major leaguer, he's going to have to improve a lot to deserve to be compared to Butler. He isn't going to hit .340, which means he isn't going to post a nifty OBP, which means that he isn't going to be doing the Mets any more good than what they already have or what they'll have again once Darryl Hamilton comes off of the DL.

If the Mets had really wanted somebody with patience and some sock, they could have held on to Ryan McGuire, but at this point, they're just spinning their wheels to avoid the indignity of being behind the Expos in the standings.


Optioned RHP Steve Schrenk to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/7]

This is the front half of the expected activation of Scott Rolen from the DL on Friday. Despite all the turnover, now that it's down to six men, the Phillies' pen is actually beginning to round into a decent unit. Wayne Gomes isn't the ideal closer, but he's adequate. Jason Boyd and Chris Brock have pitched well, and Jeff Brantley hasn't keeled over just yet. Either of Bryan Ward and Mark Holzemer could turn into a useful left-hander. With the right pitching coach and/or manager, this could shake down into a serviceable pen.

An apology is owed for my taking one report too seriously and jumping to the wrong conclusion: Cliff Politte is taking Paul Byrd's slot in the rotation, which is a much more sensible move than asking Brock to return to starting. Perhaps Politte will finally start showing the promise that made him a key component of the deal that has Garrett Stephenson embarrassing the entire Phillies organization as a Cardinal. Then at least Ed Wade will have something to feel good about after the disasters involving Curt Schilling, Mike Jackson and Andy Ashby, and the coming disaster of letting Terry Francona slag Randy Wolf's future.


Recalled 2B/SS Abraham Nunez from Nashville; designated 1B Ivan Cruz for assignment. [6/6]

With both Pat Meares and Warren Morris nursing injuries, Abraham Nunez got to come up and give the Bucs the nightmarish infield of Nunez, Luis Sojo and Mike Benjamin, all at the same time. I suppose it could have been worse if Meares had been playing somewhere. Nunez is still what he's been: a speed guy who makes contact. He was actually hitting well by his own lights at Nashville: .291/.357/.366.

The unfortunate thing is that Cam Bonifay doesn't seem to have this interleague thing sorted out. Ivan Cruz gets sent away before a series in which the Pirates will have to use the DH? And all so that they can keep seven relievers, three of whom pitched less than an inning in the last week?

Bonifay and Gene Lamont have to stop letting those preseason whammies, where several people nominated them as a neato surprise team, get to them. They've got a great shot at finishing third if a lot of things keep working out, and that's a rung better than most of us would have had any reason to expect. If Bonifay axes Lamont because of unrealistic expectations on top of this season's disappointing handling of the Pirates' prospects, then there's very little reason to expect any genuine improvements that might encourage a slightly more appropriate sense of optimism.


Optioned RHP Mark Thompson to Memphis; recalled 1B/OF Larry Sutton from Memphis. [6/6]

Mark Thompson had already dropped to third-string long reliever and spot starter with the arrivals of Matt Morris and Alan Benes, so he was definitely one body too many in the pen. With the Cardinals having to do without as much as half of their Opening Day lineup on any given night, and with even benchies like Thomas Howard playing hurt, the Cards needed the extra bat more than the 12th pitcher.

Larry Sutton is nothing special, but for a little while he will give them the left-handed bat off the bench that they've been lacking.


Placed RHP Brian Boehringer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/4 (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Domingo Guzman from Las Vegas. [6/7]

From here on out, Brian Boehringer's only real value to the franchise is as trade bait. There are several teams looking for experienced right-handed relief help, and the Pads were basement-bound this year no matter what they did or tried to do. Unfortunately, Boehringer isn't cooperating, but at the least the Pads are protecting the investment. If they can get him healthy for July, he might end up as a nifty throw-in on some sort of deal that might bring the Pads a real outfield prospect.

Injuries have wiped out a good chunk of the Pads staff, and I suppose it isn't that surprising how the standings seem to be dictating how little attention is getting paid to their problems compared to those of the Indians or Expos. You could argue that the Pads only have three pitchers left from the staff they would have liked to enter the season with: Matt Clement, Brian Meadows and Trevor Hoffman.

Generally, I like what looks like progress: Kevin Towers isn't messing around with Vicente Palacios or any other broken-down old men to stock his pen. In addition to already having hard-throwing Brandon Kolb on hand, Domingo Guzman is a good addition on the basis of talent. Guzman is a power/groundball type with good heat and a list of arm injuries. His performance this year looks dominating: a 2.57 ERA at Las Vegas and a 2.08 ERA at Mobile. If you total up his numbers from the two levels, he's given up 18 hits and 18 walks in 31 1/3 innings and racked up 28 strikeouts. I'm not predicting greatness, but he's got a good arm and this is only relief pitching. He could be an asset instead of the next Carlos Almanzar.


Activated RHP Joe Nathan from the DL; designated OF Terrell Lowery for assignment. [6/6]

Joe Nathan's return gives the Giants their original rotation. While Mark Gardner is going back to the pen, he can take heart, because that assignment isn't going to last. In classic Dusty fashion, Baker is working Russ Ortiz, Livan Hernandez and a rehabbing Shawn Estes very hard, all for the greater glory of fourth place. The question isn't whether Gardner will get to return to the rotation, but rather whether Brian Sabean is trying to clone him.

It should say something about the non-idiot that he'd clone Gardner instead of somebody good, but this Giants team is starting to resemble the early-'80s Giants teams that were old and deluded and convinced they were almost pretty good. Baker ought to remember those teams: when he wasn't beating them as a Dodger, he was losing with them in 1984.

There are about a dozen teams that ought to put in a claim on Terrell Lowery right now. He's making chump change and he's a better player than most fourth or fifth outfielders. The Rangers used to have him, and now that Ruben Mateo is out, they should claim him. The Expos still don't have a real fourth outfielder. They ought to nab him and send Terry Jones back to jumping hurdles or running sprints or delivering packages or wherever it is he came from.


Optioned RHP Kevin Hodges to Tacoma; recalled UT Charles Gipson from Tacoma. [6/7]

Charles Gipson is essentially up to paper over the fact that John Mabry can't play third base, and has already cost the Mariners on several ocassions while continuing to pretend to be a third baseman. Normally, you platoon to cover a weakness, but when the choices are Mabry and David Bell, with Gipson as the defensive replacement, doesn't that instead cry out for Pat Gillick to get off his duffer and acquire something useful with just a hint of hot-corner skills?


Optioned OF Scott Podsednik to Tulsa (Double-A); recalled RHP Ryan Glynn from Oklahoma. [6/5]

Recalled RHP Jonathan Johnson from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Ryan Glynn to Oklahoma. [6/6]

We all already know about Ryan Glynn's great start, and because of off-days on the June 8 and the June 12, the Rangers don't have to make up their minds about calling him up to stay for another week or so. Meanwhile, Johnny Oates and Doug Melvin get to sift through using the roster spot for different things on different days: first Glynn for the spot start, then Jonathan Johnson for a spare arm for long relief, then Gabe Kapler's presumed activation on Friday.

Glynn is giving every indication that he's ready to stick around. Besides his great start against the Dodgers, he's tossed two shutouts in the PCL. He's posted a 3.17 ERA and allowed only three home runs in his 59 2/3 innings, along with 52 hits allowed and a 44-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has two good pitches (fastball, slider), plus a curve and changeup for show. Compared to Mark Clark, that looks like somebody the Rangers would be smart to work into the fifth slot of a good team.

As for Clark's eventual destination, regardless of whether the Rangers trade him or waive him, I think we could all see him going back to wearing an Indians' uniform.


Placed RHP Peter Munro on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); placed OF DeWayne Wise on the 15-day DL (sore toe); activated LHP Lance Painter and 2B Homer Bush from the DL. [6/6]

Placed DH Todd Greene on the 15-day DL (strained knee); recalled C Josh Phelps from Knoxville (Double-A). [6/7]

Sore toe? In the history of hokey, phony, invented and silly "injuries" that befall every Rule 5 pick that a team tries to keep for the whole season, you're telling me that the best the Jays could come up with was a sore toe? Talk about a need for some creative license. They really need something better than whatever comes to Chris Brown's mind, they need something good and technical-sounding, like a subluxed mandibular joint or narcoleptic dementia. Anything has to be better than just "sore toe." Jim Bowden ought to protest this on the basis of creative indifference.

As far as important stuff, the Jays are now on their third or fourth fifth starter, assuming that they really will give Clayton Andrews a crack at the job. That will probably last all of two or three starts, before the Jays have some other new idea that allows them to futz around and avoid getting serious about pushing the Yankees and Red Sox.

Meanwhile, the great Homer Bush is going to have to fight to get his full-time job back. Craig Grebeck has looked good in the field, especially in turning the deuce, and he's always going to have more power than Bush will.

As for calling up Josh Phelps, that's to help paper over another one of the Jays' wasted roster spots, Alberto Castillo. As long as Darrin Fletcher is suffering from his shoulder injury, the Jays have to rely on Castillo, who can't hit. If they're going to be able to pinch-hit for Castillo in the late innings of a tight game, they're going to have to have somebody around who can catch.

Of course, if they hadn't bothered with acquiring Castillo in the first place, they could have muddled along with one of the good-hitting backup catchers who were available over the winter, and I don't mean Mike Matheny. Then they wouldn't have to spend three roster spots on one glove, one hitter and one kid. Considering they've wasted space on Marty Cordova as well, the Jays are definitely hurting themselves with poor roster selection when they ought to be making some noise.

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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