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June 14, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 8-11, 2000

by Christina Kahrl


Placed RHP Kent Bottenfield on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Lou Pote from Edmonton. [6/8]

Kent Bottenfield isn't expected to miss more than two weeks. While he hasn't pitched like the "18-game winner" the Angels claimed they'd gotten for Jim Edmonds, he also hasn't pitched much differently from how he pitched in 1999. Last year with the Cardinals his Support-Neutral Winning Percentage was .531. This year with the Angels, it's .489. That isn't dramatically different over barely more than two months.

Lou Pote's callup simply gives the Angels a spare arm until they need a fifth starter on Saturday. The bad news is that they expect to activate Tim Belcher to be that starter. If Belcher gives them anything approaching adequacy for a few starts, they need to trade him for something equally valuable, like a utility infielder, a pinch-runner...maybe a collection of Menudo CDs.

Jason Dickson will be activated by the middle of next week, which means Seth Etherton or Brian Cooper will be bumped back to Edmonton at that time. They'd be better off with Etherton and Cooper up and Belcher in parts unknown, but they'll probably have to wait until after the July 31 deadline to start evaluating who's useful for 2001.


Traded UT Andy Fox to the Marlins for OF Danny Bautista; activated RF/1B Travis Lee from the DL; optioned IF Danny Klassen to Tucson. [6/9]

As Bernard Gilkey's slump deepens, and with Erubiel Durazo still on the DL, the Snakes needed an extra bat even with Travis Lee's return. So what do they do? They trade a very useful utility player for an outfielder who hasn't put up an OBP above .303 since 1996. Danny Bautista has his use as a right-handed pinch-hitter of last resort against some of baseball's worse left-handers. But the Snakes don't need a marginal player; they need a good offensive player.

This is like dumping Tony Batista last year, although obviously on a much lesser scale: the Snakes have discarded something useful for something with little value. For all the brave talk about winning attitudes, charm and clubhouse moxie have to go pretty far to make up for lousy talent judgment.

At least Lee is back. Given Bautista's almost intangible offensive skills, the lineup would be better off with Greg Colbrunn at first base and Lee returning to right field.


Optioned LHP B.J. Ryan to Rochester; recalled RHP Gabe Molina to Rochester. [6/9]

B.J. Ryan was among the worst relievers in the league: a 7.91 ERA, 22 hits and 21 walks allowed in 19 1/3 innings. According to Michael Wolverton's Relief Evaluation Tools, he was the fifth-worst reliever in baseball. Ryan has been the poster child for the AL's worst bullpen, and the only pen in baseball that's in the same range of ineffectiveness as the Cubs. So if anyone had earned a demotion, it was him.

Gabe Molina wasn't that effective at Rochester: a 4.50 ERA with 35 baserunners in 22 innings. He won't be up for long, as it's expected that Calvin Maduro will shortly be activated. It's a waste of a roster spot either way. The Orioles need to stop carrying 12 pitchers and finally find somebody to play center field, even if only as a defensive replacement.


Activated 2B Jose Offerman from the DL; optioned RHP Dan Smith to Pawtucket. [6/10]

Jose Offerman's return has given the Red Sox some options. Mike Stanley has not hit especially well against right-handed pitching and has no value defensively. Offerman has his problems as a second baseman, while Jeff Frye is at least adequate. So the solution suggested itself: Frye at second base, Offerman at first base and Stanley losing playing time. If playing at first base is what it takes to get Offerman back on track, then the Red Sox will be the better for it. If not, then they right side of their infield will be saddled with two of the Duke's worse free-agent ideas, while third base will continue to be a problem until the Sox go shopping.


Acquired OF/1B Brant Brown from the Rangers for OF Dave Martinez. [6/9]

There's one good side to this and one really depressing side. The good? Now that he has both Brant Brown and Jon Lieber after trading them for each other after 1998, Ed Lynch can treat Cam Bonifay to the same sort of embarrassment that Lynch has to deal with whenever he sees the Phillies using both Doug Glanville and Mickey Morandini. The depressing thing (for Cubs fans, that is, and not Pittsburghers mulling over how nice it would be to have Lieber now that their rotation is beginning to break down.) is that Lynch took a potentially valuable commodity in Mark Guthrie, a veteran left-handed reliever with playoff experience, and prematurely converted him into a pinch-hitter and fourth outfielder that only two GMs ever considered a prospect: Bonifay and Lynch.


Purchased the contract of RHP Kane Davis from Buffalo; optioned LHP Mark Watson to Buffalo; designated RHP Jared Camp for assignment. [6/8]

Signed LHP Jim Poole to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Buffalo. [6/9]

What does John Hart do, stand in a mosh pit with a printout and a cell phone, randomly calling out names to add to this year's Tribe? Mark Watson flopped in his brief exposure to the situational left-hander role, but he wasn't exactly given a lot of opportunity. If the alternative is dragging in Jim Poole, they should have kept Watson on the idea that at least he might improve.

Kane Davis is basically the latest in a cycle of fill-ins on the roster. He was drafted out of a West Virginia high school in 1993 by the Pirates. He throws relatively hard and is still young enough to have a career. Between Akron and Buffalo, he had an ERA of 3.00 in 39 innings. For the time being, he's an arm for mop-up duties, while the back end of the rotation is entrusted to Paul Rigdon and Jim Brower.


Activated RF Larry Walker from the DL; optioned OF Bubba Carpenter to Colorado Springs. [6/9]

In Larry Walker's absence, the Rox mounted a sustained drive into second place. While the Snakes get the press clippings, it's Dan O'Dowd's crew that's beginning to look like it's the really good team in the division. Now that they have Walker to go with Todd Helton and Jeff Cirillo in the middle of the order, they should start scoring runs by the bushel, park effects or no park effects.

What's sort of a shame is demoting Bubba Carpenter. He at least provided a measure of power off the bench, something neither Darren Bragg nor Brian Hunter is good for.


Sold RHP Masao Kida to the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Leagues. [6/8]

Leave it to Randy Smith to go shopping for a Japanese import and wind up with baseball's answer to the Geo Storm.

Maybe Smith is just getting rid of every reminder of what he's done with the franchise in recent years. After doing everything in his power to erase the history he's had with the franchise, he can walk into the Pizza Baron's office and politely announce that daddy Tal Smith gave him a "do-over" card that prohibits his being fired on the basis of job performance.


Acquired UT Andy Fox from the Diamondbacks for OF Danny Bautista; traded OF/1B Brant Brown to the Rangers for RHP Chuck Smith. [6/9]

This is an amazing turnaround. Dave Dombrowski managed to go from carrying two of the worst fourth outfielders in the league to dumping both and getting something of value for each. Not a lot of value, mind you, but more than either Danny Bautista or Brant Brown were worth. Andy Fox is an exceptional utility man, capable of manning all seven spots other than pitcher and catcher. Setting aside this year's cold start, he's a good offensive player for a benchie, with some power, some speed and some patience.

Considering his Northern League pedigree and his age (30), Chuck Smith isn't a prospect. Nevertheless, he could be handy as a potential fill-in fifth starter. For Oklahoma this year, he had a 3.78 ERA and had allowed 73 hits and 38 walks in 66 2/3 innings, striking out 73. His main skill on the mound has been keeping the ball in the infield: it isn't surprising that he's allowed only three home runs when he records more than three times as many outs by strikeouts and groundballs than he does by flyouts. Aided by thick Miami air and a good infield, he could end up as a solidly mediocre major leaguer. After being cut loose by the Rockies, Astros and White Sox, it's amazing that he's come even this far.


Placed RHP Chris Fussell on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); optioned RHP Jason Rakers to Omaha; recalled RHPs Dan Murray and Brett Laxton from Omaha. [6/9]

Four Royals pitchers, and all four of them are guys Herk Robinson has picked up in the last couple of years on waivers or through trades that cumulatively saw the Royals giving up more talent than these four represent.

For as bad as Chris Fussell has been--and with 16 home runs allowed in 53 innings, he's been bad--he was the third-best starter the Royals had left behind Jeff Suppan and Mac Suzuki. So what now? Dan Murray is basically only up to show somebody somewhere that they got something for Glendon Rusch, while Brett Laxton will enter the rotation behind Suppan, Suzuki, Miguel Batista and Jay Witasick.

Murray and Laxton have superficially similar records: Murray had a 5.32 ERA with a 5-3 record and a hit allowed per inning at Omaha, while Laxton had a 5.10 ERA with a 3-4 record and a hit allowed per inning. Even so, Laxton has the better chance for success. He's a groundball pitcher who has allowed only two home runs, while Murray is a flyball pitcher without great stuff.

The Royals' constant dependence on everyone else's pitching discards is theoretically just a part-time thing. Eventually, they're supposed to start cranking out pitching prospects, as the organization is supposed to be one of the most talent-laden when it comes to young arms. With Jose Rosado looking like he's out for the year, that's a sobering thought.


Received RHP Kenny Kutz from the Reds as the PTBNL to complete the 4/1 trade of SS Juan Castro. [6/8]

Kenny Kutz isn't a prospect at this point, but Juan Castro was simply another light-hitting shortstop in an organization already flooded with them. No real gain or loss for the Sheriff.


Activated C Chris Widger from the DL. [6/9]

Purchased the contract of LHP David Moraga from Harrisburg (Double-A); transferred LHP Matt Blank from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed RHP T.J. Tucker on the 15-day DL (strained forearm). [6/11]

The Expos pitching staff continues to founder with yet another injury. David Moraga isn't a prospect. Signed in 1994 as an undrafted free agent out of high school, he's been an soft-tossing organizational soldier. He has been struggling against right-handed batters as a starter in the Eastern League, and he's really only up for situational use. He might turn into a useful spot lefty if he's given at least a month in the job.

Now that T.J. Tucker has joined Hideki Irabu on the DL, the fifth spot in the rotation is being handed to Mike Johnson. He's still spinning an occasionally nifty curve. That still leaves the Expos where they've been since Antonio Armas came up: four good starting pitchers.

The problem isn't the rotation. With only Steve Kline and Anthony Telford left from the Opening Day bullpen, the Expos are running with the Blue Jays in a special tier of relief lousiness only slightly better than the Cubs and Orioles.


Sold OF Jon Nunnally to the Orix Blue Wave of the Japanese Leagues. [6/8]

Jon Nunnally managed only to draw walks and field well during the infrequent stints in the lineup he was stingily given. Leave it to the Mets to get frustrated and discard him, leaving Robin Ventura as the lone left-handed bat in the lineup.

One of the great New York stories about those storied Brooklyn teams Vin Scully loves to reminisce about was how the Dodgers would have Duke Snider as the lone left-handed batter in the lineup. Theories about lineup protection were simpler back then, as authors like Roger Kahn would claim that Snider's handedness required protection from no less than seven right-handed bats to scare opposing managers from stacking their rotations with left-handers. This isn't the case here. Ventura doesn't have extreme platoon problems, and the problem with the Mets lineup isn't one of handedness, it's one of ability. The issue isn't opposing managers stacking right-handed starters against the Mets because of their handedness, it's opposing managers taking comfort that they'll be facing a lineup stacked with mediocrities like Todd Zeile and Derek Bell.


Signed RHP Dwight Gooden to a minor-league contract. [6/11]

With Ramiro Mendoza aching, Ed Yarnall on the DL and David Cone looking like he's reaching the end of the line, the Yankees' springtime wealth of starting pitching is suddenly narrowed down to what's in New York and the bounty they got from the Expos in the Irabu heist.

Given a choice between Doc Gooden and Ted Lilly, you'd have to hope that the Yankees would choose talent over the old man so washed up that the Devil Rays cut him even before spinning a souvenir day around him. Perhaps Mel Stottlemyre feels guilty for having helped burn Gooden out in the mid-1980s. It was Stottlemyre's theory that Gooden needed to become a groundball pitcher, on the unfounded notion that it was groundballers who lasted forever. It was a lazy alternative to counting pitches or trying to watch his workload, and it didn't help Gooden in the least.

That isn't to say Gooden's downfall wasn't just as much due to his extracurricular activities, but we can't know how much that directly affected his career or his arm. What we do know is that Stottlemyre and manager Davey Johnson didn't ease off on a good thing when they had baseball's best pitcher in 1984 and 1985, and by the time Gooden turned 24, he would never be the same pitcher he had been.


Activated 3B Scott Rolen from the DL; optioned RHP Steve Schrenk to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/9]

Now that they have Scott Rolen, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu all together, the Phillies may make a run to get out of the NL's offensive basement. The amount of good a little bit of offense could do will have to be seen. Perhaps Terry Francona will start using his pitching staff better if he has a few more leads to work with. Unfortunately, better offensive performances might only end up encouraging him to leave his starters out there even longer, precipitating an even more sudden collapse than what I've been anticipating.


Activated LHP Jesse Orosco from the DL; optioned LHP Jose Rodriguez to Memphis. [6/9]

Scott Radinsky's out for the year and heading for Tommy John surgery; you have to wonder how confident Jesse Orosco (or anybody else for that matter) should be about whether or not the organization is going to put his health ahead of their panicky in-season shuffling.


Transferred LHP Sterling Hitchcock from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Carlos Reyes from Las Vegas; optioned RHP Domingo Guzman to Las Vegas. [6/10]

Now that they've decided to waste roster space and time on another short-time mercenary instead of somebody who might be a Padre two years from now, it occurs to me that the Padres are going about this whole employment thing the wrong way. Their season is in the dumper, and major-league roster spots bring their beneficiaries benefits as well as compensation. Since they're already not using merit or the future to guide their choices for who's a Pad Person and who isn't, why not start making mercenaries bid for roster spots?

Getting major-league service time is more valuable to someone like Carlos Reyes than the roster spot is to the Padres. If it's important enough for Reyes to be on a major-league roster, maybe it would be worth something to him to make it. I'm not sold on which way to go: either journeymen could bid for how little they'd work for, or they could just offer cash up front to Kevin Towers for the job.


Acquired OF/1B Brant Brown from the Marlins for RHP Chuck Smith; traded Brown to the Cubs for OF Dave Martinez; activated RF Gabe Kapler from the DL; optioned RHP Jonathan Johnson to Oklahoma. [6/9]

Designated OF Jason McDonald for assignment. [6/10]

While the Rangers needed outfield help now that Ruben Mateo is out, was Dave Martinez the answer? He can't play center field on a regular basis any more than Chad Curtis can, which is why Scarborough Green has been retained instead of a better all-around player like Jason McDonald. Martinez hasn't had a good offensive season since 1997. The consolation is that at least he didn't cost much. From an organizational point of view, it's to Doug Melvin's credit that he converted a Northern Leaguer into an adequate fourth outfielder.

Far more important is Gabe Kapler's return. If he hits anything like he can (or like we projected), he'll certainly help the Rangers' offense continue to run with the A's and Mariners. If he doesn't, the Rangers will not be able to continue putting more runs on the board than their struggling rotation.

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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