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June 17, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 12-14, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated RHP Mark Petkovsek from the DL; optioned RHP Eric Weaver to Edmonton. [6/12]

This roster exchange illustrates how even tried and true stats like ERA don't really mean much in certain situations. Both Eric Weaver (6.75) and Mark Petkovsek (7.13) have lousy ERAs, but in each case that doesn't tell you much because neither has pitched that many innings. With only a few innings pitched, one bad outing can tank a cumulative stat like ERA.

Of course, that isn't the case with Weaver: he's pitched as badly as his ERA says he has, and he's been the worst Angels reliever aside from one-man wrecking crew Shigetoshi Hasegawa. As Michael Wolverton's Relief Evaluation Tools tell us, Petkovsek has actually been a pretty handy middle man when healthy, and his return should help shore up a beleaguered bullpen.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed SS Rafael Furcal on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled SS Mark DeRosa from Richmond. [6/13]

Placed RHP Rudy Seanez on the 15-day DL (torn medial collateral ligament - elbow); recalled LHP John Rocker from Richmond. [6/14]

The big news is in the bullpen, where Rudy Seanez is done for the year, and strangely enough, it isn't his chronically bad back. Losing him, and having to resort to recalling John Rocker, exposes the Braves' lack of depth in the pen. As shrill as the media cries for some sort of veteran reliever have been in years past, you can be sure those cries will be even more so now that the Braves have lost three right-handed relievers (Seanez, Kevin McGlinchy and the comparatively replaceable Greg McMichael).

But do the Braves need to make a move? Luis Rivera is also injured, but he's expected to be available again around the All-Star break. McGlinchy should return from the DL before the trading deadline. Kerry Ligtenberg is finally back on track and Jason Marquis is a perfect example of the kind of solution a smart organization can find within its own ranks. Marquis is young and throws hard, and his arm could probably use a break from starting in the minors. Like McGlinchy before him (or the currently coolest example, Pedro Martinez), putting Marquis into a major-league bullpen is a relatively simple lesson: talent matters more than "moxie," and the Braves know it.

The larger issue is more troubling. Sure, having the best record in baseball is swell, but can any team afford to run two struggling starters out there? Kevin Millwood is starting to look badly used, and John Burkett like the mistake he was all along. Bruce Chen has been a major asset as a long reliever, but only the injuries in the pen should keep him there.

Dave Pease already tackled issues surrounding Rafael Furcal's run-in with the law and what his real age might be. Maybe it's just me, but I think he's better off trying to maintain the fiction of being 19 and a drunk minor than he would be if he has to cop to forging several federal documents. In his absence, the Braves can continue to enjoy their relative roster depth. Walt Weiss (.257 Equivalent Average) could start for any other team in the division.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Acquired RF Karim Garcia from the Tigers in exchange for future considerations. [6/12]

Released Nepotista Derrick May and RHP Rafael Pina; traded RHP Al Reyes to the Dodgers for RHP Alan Mills and cash. [6/13]

The Orioles' pen has been the worst in the American League, so finding somebody resembling a major-league reliever was a bit of a priority. While Alan Mills has pitched better than everyone on the Orioles not named Buddy Groom, he's still coming out of Chavez Ravine after giving up 47 baserunners in 25 1/3 innings, and moving over to the DH league and cozy Camden Yards. If the Dodgers managed to stick Boss Angelos with the balance of Mills's paycheck, chalk this up as another bad old addition to a bad old team.

Rochester isn't really in its divisional race in the International League, but for whatever reason, the College of GMs decided to give them a big boost by dumping Derrick May and replacing him with Karim Garcia. With Toledo, Garcia was slugging in the high .600s. He doesn't play center field, so he doesn't do the Orioles any more good than a Ken Gerhart comeback would.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Rod Beck off the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Rob Stanifer to Pawtucket. [6/13]

For entertainment value, you can't do much better than watching the Shooter lean in for the sign, sweat gushing from his mustachio, before he tries to whip his body around his Buddhesque center of gravity. The results are usually spotty, but he'll add nothing if not drama.

Rod Beck's rehab outings with the PawSox were tasty: no runs allowed in six innings, with four hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. That's as good a run as he'll enjoy all year, but as I said, he'll at least bring an air of gutsy, gutty fun.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed LHP Tom Martin on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Willie Martinez from Buffalo. [6/13]

The record is now six and six. The statistic? How many pitchers from the Opening Day roster are left versus how many are ex-Buffalo Bisons or ex-Akron Aeros. The breakdown is even between the rotation and the pen: three survivors are starters and three are relievers.

Nobody's really a prospect among the reinforcements. At Buffalo, Willie Martinez put up a 6.11 ERA, and hardly seems like somebody meant to stick around for mop-up duty for very long. He and Paul Rigdon are products of the system, but Martinez was hardly bringing the organization any credit.

Now that Tom Martin is gone, the Tribe is without a left-handed reliever. That leaves a pen with few situational specialists and only four pitchers that Charlie Manuel can be reasonably comfortable using. You have to expect a callup of either Andrew Lorraine or Alan Newman to fill a role as at least a token left-hander.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated 1B Tony Clark from the DL; optioned C Javier Cardona to Toledo; traded RF Karim Garcia to the Baltimore Orioles for future considerations. [6/12]

Tony Clark's return chases Rob Fick back to the bench, as he resumes his job as Brad Ausmus's caddy. Fick had a shot to claim a larger role for himself, but having hit just .252/.341/.318, he did little to earn more at-bats.

Choosing between Fick and Clark isn't one of life's lovelier choices; both are in the primes of their careers and aren't hitting for squat. Neither one has any significant value in trade, and the only way they ever will is by getting regular playing time. The Tigers would be better off short- and long-term by playing both of them and benching Juan Encarnacion, because we know he can't hit.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Recalled RHP Orel Hershiser from San Bernardino (A-ball); optioned RHP Eric Gagne to Albuquerque; acquired RHP Al Reyes from the Orioles in exchange for RHP Alan Mills and cash. [6/13]

The pressure of trying to keep everybody was beginning to wear thin, so the Sheriff finally did something about it. Al Reyes throws hard and could turn into a handy reliever. More importantly, the Dodgers can probably induce him to accept an assignment to Albuquerque instead of declaring himself a free agent.

That very issue is why Eric Gagne went down. Having an option is the primary reason he's off to Albuquerque. Overall, he hasn't pitched well, despite a superficially adequate 4.47 ERA. Giving up 49 hits and 31 walks in only 50 1/3 innings, topped off with ten taters, is hardly good work pitching in Dodger Stadium. But as mediocre as his performance has been, it's still been slightly better than how either Carlos Perez or Darren Dreifort have pitched. But with wheezing Gee Whiz Kid Orel Hershiser demanding a swan song--because he's got that entitlement to chase Don Drysdale's career wins total going for him--the Dodgers are what some people would call "conflicted," and others, more technically, "screwing around."

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Acquired RHP Matt Parker and C Eliezer Alfonzo from the Cardinals to complete an earlier trade. [6/13]

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned 3B Trace Coquillette to Ottawa; recalled 3B Michael Barrett from Ottawa. [6/14]

Apparently 24 games was a long enough punitive assignment for Michael Barrett. The real punishment needs to be meted out to those responsible for making him a third baseman, but with the Expos currently celebrating a sturdily mediocre performance from Chris Widger, they're not second-guessing the decision to keep Widger instead of trading him for a third baseman. Barrett played well at Ottawa, hitting .352/.427/.484; in his absence, nobody among Trace Coquilette or Andy Tracy or Geoff Blum did enough to stake claims of their own.

Barrett's return to the hot corner gives the Expos defensive problems at both infield corners. He is still all thumbs at third base, and Lee Stevens is a pillar of Garveyesque immobility at first base. At least the middle infield is less of a problem: Jose Vidro seems to have improved and there's less jabbering about Orlando Cabrera's sad attempts to match Rey Ordonez highlight for highlight.

NEW YORK METS

Optioned RHP Bobby J. Jones to Norfolk; recalled LHP Bobby M. Jones from Norfolk. [6/12]

Swapping Joneses isn't going to make a whit of difference over the long term, and because the Mets have a sprinkling of off-days coming up, they won't have to use the Bad Bobby Jones as a starter until next weekend against the Pirates, if they elect to start him even then. At least he'll be facing one of the league's weakest offensive teams.

The "good" Bobby Jones is looking damaged, and the Mets' attempts to make him pitch aren't doing anybody any good. His absence has been more than made up by a good two month's work by Glendon Rusch and Mike Hampton's bounce back to adequacy. As long as Bobby Valentine can continue to treat both Rick Reed and Al Leiter with kid gloves, the Mets might be able to stay in the running for the wild-card slot. That's considerably less than what was advertised, but it would be a remarkable achievement with this outfit.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Announced that Sacramento River Cats 1B Paul Sorrento has decided to retire. [6/14]

Now that his career is done, it's worth remembering the good times. Like when he was finally liberated from the Twins after failing to get into Tom Kelly's good graces and slip past the immortal Gene Larkin in the drive for the equally immortal Randy Bush's roster spot.

For a few years with the Indians, Paul Sorrento was a good example of the kind of talent you could find cheap and pay even less if you weren't in the market for a big-ticket first baseman. Then came the big paydays, and it was forgotten that he was already 26 by the time he'd gotten his first real shot at a major-league job. Professionally middle-aged and armed with old players' skills, he had his last good season at 31, just in time to sign with the Devil Rays in one of the first displays of Chuck LaMar's uncanny sense of bad timing in inking free agents.

Sorrento managed to put together a good little career sprinkled with a few appearances in postseason play and a ring with the Twins in 1991. For a very average first baseman in a world laced with Mo Vaughns and Carlos Delgados, that's not too shabby.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/10 (shoulder inflammation); recalled RHP Bronson Arroyo from Nashville. [6/12]

Placed CF Adrian Brown on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled CF Emil Brown from Nashville. [6/13]

For a long time, I didn't really want to believe. After all, Jason Schmidt had "only" made 33 starts each of the last two years and had never topped 215 innings pitched or 950 batters faced. He'd only tossed two complete games in a season, nothing at all like Mark Fidrych's 24 in 1976 or Doc Gooden's 16 in 1985 or Kid Correa's four in 1986. How abusive could that be?

Pretty abused, as it turns out, and hats off to Rany Jazayerli for picking this one right through Pitcher Abuse Points. The Bucs are putting the nicest spin they can on this, saying that Schmidt just needs six to eight weeks of rest, and that his rotator cuff is merely swollen, not torn. But this is his second stint on the DL, and we're talking about somebody who is giving up more than six runs a game and walking almost six men per nine innings. How many warning signs did Cam Bonifay need? I'd be willing to bet Schmidt doesn't come back at all this season, and since the most that would be at stake would be third place in the NL Central, it would be just as well that he not pitch.

The more important issue, now that I'm done crying over the spilt milk, is whether or not the Pirates learn from this and apply the lesson to how they handle Kris Benson's career.

In Schmidt's place in the rotation will be Bronson Arroyo. Just 23, he was nevertheless entering his third season above A ball this year. Arroyo was pitching par for his career at Nashville: another glossy record (7-2), another decent ERA (3.86) and OK peripherals: 77 hits and 23 walks in 81 2/3 innings, with 50 strikeouts. He has decent velocity and gets a number of outs with a sinker that left-handed hitters usually pound into the infield grass. I'm going against the grain in that I like him better than Jimmy Anderson. He'll struggle now, and probably for a couple of years, but if the Bucs avoid hurting him he could eventually grow into a useful bottom-of-the-rotation starter.

Losing Adrian Brown and replacing him with Emil Brown simply replaces one good-fielding and good-running center fielder with a bit of patience with another. As long as the Pirates keep running Brian Giles into center field, they'll need one of the Browns around for late-game defensive shifting.

If you're curious about Chad Hermansen, and why he didn't get the call, he's only hitting .282/.354/.408 at Nashville.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed RHP Brett Tomko on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); activated RHP Gil Meche from the DL. [6/12]

Placed C Dan Wilson on the 15-day DL (pulled oblique); recalled C Joe Oliver from Tacoma. [6/14]

Both of these moves sort of underscore the kind of luck that the Mariners have enjoyed all season. Losing a worn-out Wilson isn't really a loss at this point. While Joe Oliver won't hit a lick, Tom Lampkin is an offensive improvement. Plus, if the playing time lets Lampkin claim a platoon role or encourages Lou Piniella to rest Wilson more often when he returns, this could end up working out very well for the Mariners down the stretch.

As for the ongoing rotation shuffle, it looks like the Mariners have stumbled onto the solution to Piniella's heavy hand with his pitching staffs. Whether it was by intention or good luck is irrelevant for the time being. As long as they continue to keep all seven of their starting pitchers, and keep plunking them onto the DL at the first sign of trouble, Pat Gillick may have found a way to keep fielding a rotation down the stretch.

Consider that among the seven starters the Mariners have used regularly so far, four have gotten hurt: Jamie Moyer, Brett Tomko, Gil Meche and Freddy Garcia. Only Aaron Sele and John Halama have been fine all season, while Paul Abbott was pressed into the rotation because of the injuries.

But none of the injuries have taken anyone away for the season. Garcia is due back soon and Tomko apparently isn't too seriously hurt. So despite losing four starting pitchers, the Mariners have yet to really be short-handed as far as starters. The bullpen, as always, is another story, but there hasn't been a bullpen built that Piniella couldn't find a way to slag. For the time being, the Mariners can take some satisfaction that they've managed to field a good rotation all along, and it isn't as if they're using Mark Clark or Omar Olivares or Ken Hill.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed 3B Vinny Castilla on the 15-day DL (back inflammation); recalled IF Bobby Smith from Durham. [6/14]

Fred McGriff is getting mossy and Jose Canseco and Vinny Castilla are both hurt, and still the Devil Rays find ways to keep Steve Cox and Bubba Trammell from playing. If there's a franchise whose plug needs pulling, it's this one. They have an outstanding opportunity to cast aside the team that engendered ludicrous predictions of a wild-card bid, and put a good, relatively young righty/lefty power combo into the middle of their order.

Playing Bobby Smith after his tremendous performance at Durham (.293/.357/.607, plus 15/2 SB/CS) would only reinforce that. Add in Russ Johnson playing second base or shortstop, and you've got a great gaggle of guys who might rival the Rangers' bench as a Ken Phelps All-Star Team.

But are the D-Rays going to do that? No, not when they can keep playing Randy Winn and do neat things like using Mike DiFelice as a pinch-runner. Not that any of the "culling-teams" proposals are ever going to get off the ground, but if they ever could, this organization is the one just begging for extinction.

TEXAS RANGERS

Transferred RHP Danny Kolb from the 15- to the 60-day DL; assigned OF Jason McDonald to Oklahoma; claimed RHP Scott Randall off of waivers from the Twins and assigned him to Oklahoma. [6/14]

Scott Randall is a nifty snag off of the waiver wire. Despite pitching in Salt Lake, he managed a 5.47 ERA. He put up good ratios, over 2-to-1 for both groundballs to flyballs and strikeouts to walks, plus he can step right into Oklahoma's rotation in the spot just vacated by Chuck Smith. While he's seen a lot of work coming up through the Rockies' chain, it's a mystery as to why the Twins would place him on waivers after acquiring him in exchange for the forgettable Chris Latham. A good piece of shopping by Doug Melvin.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned LHP Clayton Andrews to Syracuse; recalled RHP Matt DeWitt from Syracuse. [6/14]

The usual inveterate shuffling. While Matt DeWitt had pitched his way out of Syracuse's rotation, and has lousy overall numbers (5.86 ERA, 90 baserunners and 40 runs in 50 2/3 innings), keep in mind that the Jays don't have much in the way of good right-handed relievers. Jim Fregosi has relied heavily on the bad-news twins of Bloody Paul Quantrill and John Frascatore, and their pitching has helped give the Jays the second-worst pen in the AL, ahead of only the Orioles. While DeWitt is just another arm, he's part of the swag in the Hentgen deal that has both teams scratching their heads and wondering why they thought the deal was such a good idea for either of them. At 22, he's young enough to improve, and the best place for him to do it will be in the bullpen.

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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