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June 21, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 15-18, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated RHP Tim Belcher from the DL; placed LHP Scott Schoeneweis on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage). [6/16]

Mike Scioscia has gotten a lot of credit for some things, like his communication skills, his confidence in Ben Molina and how he's handled his young starting pitchers. With the lone exception of an injured Ramon Ortiz, the Angels have managed to get pretty good work out of Scott Schoeneweis, Jason Dickson, Jarrod Washburn, Brian Cooper and Seth Etherton. That group should be your 2001 Angels rotation.

In the worn-out words of Howard Cosell, this could be the turning point of the game. The Angels have done a great job of hanging around .500, and as much as that's to Scioscia's credit, the absence of so many of Bill Bavasi's bad ideas has done nothing but help. Now Belcher is healthy and Ken Hill is apparently not far behind, which means the Angels can look forward to getting reacquainted with what went so wrong last year.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated RHP Todd Stottlemyre from the DL; optioned OF Turner Ward to Tucson. [6/15]

The Toad's return couldn't come soon enough. Omar Daal hasn't struggled this badly since 1997--when he meandered through four organizations--and Armando Reynoso is pitching about as well as Keanu Reeves acts. If Todd Stottlemyre can pitch at all effectively for any length of time, the Snakes will be able to keep running with the Rockies and the regrouping Dodgers. Without him, the overblown rhetoric about team personality and keen citizenship awards will be only that much more wasted ink, bandwidth and air.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed UT Rich Amaral on the 15-day DL (strained calf); recalled OF Luis Matos from Bowie (Double-A). [6/18]

Losing Amaral is one of the best things that could have happened to the Orioles, under the circumstances. They desperately needed the roster spot, and Luis Matos is a legitimate center fielder. Matos was hitting reasonably well (.272/.347/.405) considering that he is a 21-year-old repeater at Bowie. Like Eugene Kingsale, he's a speed player (14 steals against seven times caught) who can fly to the alleys. Unlike Kingsale, he has a tremendous arm and enough of a hint of future power to like what he could grow to be. If the Orioles decide to stop being a glorified temp service and start playing guys who have futures, they could do worse than considering Matos next spring.

CHICAGO CUBS

Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Rain from Iowa; optioned RHP Matt Karchner to Iowa; transferred 3B Shane Andrews from the 15- to 60-day DL. [6/16]

Activated SS Jose Nieves; optioned 2B/OF Chad Meyers to Iowa. [6/18]

This is one of those drums I've been banging for so long that it's hard to remember when I haven't been arguing that the Cubs should give Steve Rain a clean shot at a roster spot. He's a better pitcher than Brian Williams and his ilk, the kind of pitcher who shouldn't have to cool his heels while the team trades for a Matt Karchner or recycles Tim Worrell. Rain still has the great forkball, and he was pitching about as well as he can for Iowa (3.45 ERA, a 34-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31 1/3 innings). The real key is that unlike a Kyle Farnsworth, Rain is already a finished product and not somebody who would need coaching that he'll never get from Don Baylor or Oscar Acosta.

Jose Nieves's return highlights a coming crunch on infield roster spots. Once Ricky Gutierrez heals, somebody from among Nieves, Augie Ojeda or Jeff Huson should be dumped. Despite being heavily touted by the organization, Nieves isn't really any more of a prospect than Ojeda. He's only slightly younger, while Ojeda is the better defensive player. Huson has no value whatsoever; cutting him loose once Gutierrez returns would make the most sense. In the meantime, Nieves and Ojeda will probably split the playing time, with whoever doesn't give Baylor reason to snipe at him publically getting kept, and the target getting sent to Iowa.

CINCINNATI REDS

Activated OF Alex Ochoa from the DL; optioned 1B D.T. Cromer to Louisville. [6/16]

It's definitely a surprise that Alex Ochoa has come back in less than three weeks from an emergency appendectomy, even to him. Because of the Reds' recent struggles, it isn't hard to sense a hint of desperation in the move.

The Reds should get desperate: if things keep going the way they've been going, they aren't going to beat the Cardinals. Barry Larkin looks like he's lost a half-dozen steps at short, and they're still blowing a roster spot on Hal Morris. When they decide to take on either of those issues, then they'll be desperate and doing something useful about it.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHP Jaime Navarro; signed LHP Mike Mohler to a minor-league contract; optioned RHPs Kane Davis and Willie Martinez to Buffalo; designated LHP Mark Watson for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Brian Williams from Buffalo; transferred RHP Jaret Wright from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/16]

In a tastefully decorated office, a phone rings.

RING! RING!
John: Hi, Cleveland Indians, the big guy speaking.
Ron: Howdy, John.
John: Oh, it's you.
Ron: I wanted to give you a tip, just to keep things sporting. I mean, we all know you don't have a Brian Giles or a Sean Casey to throw away nowadays, and that's just proof of how hard it is to find pitching when you're not stealing it from the Giants.
John: You bore me. Really, you do.
Ron: There's a starter with major-league experience available. He throws hard, even throws from a bunch of angles. I understand he'd be motivated to beat us. That makes for a good story if you wanted him to start against us.
John: You haven't won anything, absolutely nothing.
Ron: John, that sounds downright cranky. Still having the Mesa nightmare? Anyways, I'm having this pitcher's profile faxed over; I think you'll find him pretty handy.
John: I've got Brian Williams now. We'll show you. You'll rue the day....
Ron: Hey, where do I send "Get Well Soon" cards to Clyde Wright's boy, anyway?

COLORADO ROCKIES

Acquired DH/C Adam Melhuse from the Dodgers for a PTBNL. [6/17]

Designated IF Aaron Ledesma for assignment; added DH/C Adam Melhuse to the active roster. [6/18]

The interesting development here is that Dan O'Dowd and Buddy Bell have come to the conclusion that Terry Shumpert can handle starting a game now and then at shortstop, a decision that immediately endangered Aaron Ledesma's roster spot. Rather than carry two utility infielders, the Rox decided to bring in a professional hitter as an ace pinch-hitter, sort of like they initially did when they carried Jeff Manto at the beginning of the season. Adam Melhuse is a switch-hitter with power and patience who can catch or play first base or the outfield, even third base in an emergency, and that makes him extremely valuable as a 25th man. Why the Jays didn't find room to retain him in their organization in the first place, only to employ someone like Todd Greene, is something only Gord Ash could explain.

Ledesma will catch on somewhere if he elects to be a free agency instead of accepting a minor-league assignment. It will be interesting to see if he'd rather take his chances on coming back to a team in contention, or if he'd rather play for somebody else.

DETROIT TIGERS

Optioned LHP Allen McDill to Toledo. [6/18]

Allen McDill was shipped out after Sunday's game, with the expectation that the Tigers will reactivate Rule 5er Mark Johnson. With C.J. Nitkowski in the bullpen full-time, McDill was no longer the token left-hander in the pen.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Released RHP Carlos Castillo from Calgary's roster; signed RHP Scott Sanders to a minor-league contract. [6/17]

¡Hasta la Jumbo! Whether you call him Baby Huey or The Whole Enchilada, he's now available for a song, and with the indignity of losing out to one of the ultimate pre-owned pitchers of our day. At this point, Scott Sanders has been cut loose and resurrected with so many different teams that he really needs a cool nickname, and something a wee bit wittier than "Colonel." Scotty "Suitcase" Sanders? The Pale Rider? Help me out here, folks.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed 3B Ken Caminiti on the 15-day DL (ruptured tendon sheath - wrist); recalled 3B Chris Truby from New Orleans. [6/16]

Ken Caminiti's injury is a crying shame on all sorts of levels. For him, it essentially kills off a season in which he'd earned an invitation to the All-Star Game. He was outhitting every NL third baseman, with a .322 Equivalent Average. Now he won't be back until late August, so it isn't surprising that, in his disgust, he mentioned retirement. I'm selfish, in that I hope it doesn't happen, if only because Caminiti was one of my favorite players at the start of the decade and one of the only players whose defense I believed was worth the price of admission.

In his absence, Chris Truby should get a shot at platooning with Bill Spiers at third base. He was hitting a relatively meager .284/.318/.369 at New Orleans, but at least he can boast that ten of his 16 extra-base hits were against left-handers. Truby got a lot of attention for having a big power season in 1998, but he's already 26. He's a good defensive player who shouldn't be asked to do more than platoon. Obviously, it would be nice to still have Russ Johnson right around now.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Named Allard Baird GM; announced that Herk Robinson will remain with the team as executive vice president and CEO. [6/17]

As I'm sure Brewers fans might advise Royals fans, sometimes, you need to be careful what you wish for. While Herk Robinson's aimless caretaker regime has finally come to a close, and his anointed replacement finally come to the fore, the Royals' problems are as basic as ever. They need to bring in some better pitching coaches at every level of the organization and they need to sort out what they are going to do with Johnny Damon. Having been groomed from within all along, I'm reluctant to believe Allard Baird will considerably improve matters.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Optioned RHP Al Reyes to Albuquerque; recalled DH/C Adam Melhuse from Albuquerque. [6/16]

Activated 3B Adrian Beltre from the DL; traded DH/C Adam Melhuse to the Rockies for a PTBNL. [6/17]

So now the daisy chain is complete, and what we got to see was a pretty nifty job of generating a roster spot out of thin air. Kevin Malone managed to make Alan Mills go away, get a reliever of roughly equivalent value who was willing to spend time in the minors and create a roster spot for Adrian Beltre's activation.

One of the winners of this shuffle is Alex Cora, since he'll probably get to platoon with Kevin Elster at shortstop for the time being. In the near future, the Dodgers should add an outfielder with some sock to the bench, instead of carrying multiple utilitymen like Jose Vizcaino and Shawn Gilbert and F.P. Santangelo. Once you get Davey Johnson to use Dave Hansen off the bench, you've basically gotten him to fire his only bullet.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated OF Lyle Mouton from the DL; designated PH Sean Berry for assignment. [6/16]

If only Lyle Mouton could play first base and give the Brewers some kind of alternative to being all Charlie Hayes, all the time. While Hayes has clearly hit better than expected, he could do better still and the Brewers would remain in the basement. Kevin Barker still deserves part of the job.

Cutting Sean Berry loose was only about 14 months too late, but better late than never.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Recalled RHP Mike Lincoln from Salt Lake; optioned OF Brian Buchanan to Salt Lake. [6/15]

Optioned C Matt LeCroy to New Britain (Double-A); optioned RHP Sean Bergman to Salt Lake; recalled C Chad Moeller and RHP Jason Ryan from Salt Lake. [6/18]

At some point, the Twins have to come to terms with Tom Kelly's baleful role in player development in an organization whose future is going to be overwhelmingly dependent on player development.

Was Matt LeCroy rushed? In retrospect, obviously. Even if you set aside his offensive performance (worst among regular catchers with a .180 Equivalent Average), he needs to play every day. Having seen him flop, why quit on him now? If the Twins didn't anticipate LeCroy's struggles as one of the possible outcomes, they were being irresponsible. The team had options at catcher in camp: if they were at all concerned with LeCroy flopping, they could have opened the year with Javy Valentin and allowed LeCroy to get another hundred or two hundred at-bats at Salt Lake before calling him up. All concerned would probably have been better off for it.

Instead, the organization is now bumping LeCroy down to Double-A, probably so that he can avoid joining Tom Kelly's Doghouse Puppies in Salt Lake. These are the same guys so enthusiastically trumpeting Phil Roof's qualities as a manager. Interestingly, LeCroy seems to have distanced himself from the sour grapes you'll get from Todd Walker nowadays. He seems to have accepted that he didn't hit and therefore didn't deserve to stick around. While that's a dandy attitude to take under the circumstances, he has plenty of examples of how not to respond to TK's punitive reassignments, and appears to have learned from them.

Now the Twins are going to use Chad Moeller, when he was just about the worst choice available in camp. He hardly hit a lick in Salt Lake (.287/.322/.467), one of the PCL's better hitters' parks.

Brian Buchanan's demotion only highlights how frivolous it was to call him up in the first place. It won't be long before Torii Hunter is back.

On the pitching side of things, Sean Bergman was due to go down, four wins or no four wins. Nobody can turn a blind eye to 111 hits and 18 home runs in just 68 innings. With Joe Mays also struggling, Kelly may elect to put both callups into the rotation behind Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Marc Redman.

Both Jason Ryan and Mike Lincoln were pitching well in the Buzz rotation. Lincoln had a 3.87 ERA, allowing 72 hits and 16 walks in 74 1/3 innings with 37 strikeouts. More impressively, he had allowed only four home runs, aided by a 2-to-1 groundball-to-flyball ratio. He's never going to impress on the radar gun, but he may yet turn into an adequate fifth starter because of his exceptional control.

Ryan was off to a hot start, running up a 7-0 record to go with a 4.18 ERA. He'd also managed to allow less than a hit per inning in Salt Lake (74 in 75 1/3 innings, with 26 walks and 52 strikeouts). He throws harder than Lincoln and has four pitches he can rely on, but he's not a top prospect as much as somebody who should turn out better than Willie Banks. Both are still too young to really make it right now, at least with this kind of team, and as rotation regulars.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned RHP Guillermo Mota to Ottawa; outrighted LHP David Moraga to Ottawa; recalled RHP Brad Rigby from Ottawa; purchased the contract of LHP Scott Forster from Ottawa. [6/17]

Designated RHP Mark Skrmetta for assignment; signed RHP Julio Santana. [6/18]

One of the nice things about having a crappy bullpen is that you can discard half of it at one swoop and not be any worse off. Mota still doesn't have the kind of movement on his fastball that will make him more like Felix Rodriguez and less like Greg Pirkl among the position player-to-pitcher projects.

There are nice things to be said for your new Expos. Brad Rigby can still flash a nice sinker once in awhile, and should make an adequate mop-up man if given the opportunity. Julio Santana was a steal from the Red Sox, pure and simple. Pitching in Pawtucket's rotation, he was blowing away right-handed hitters and his peripheral numbers are pretty solid: 61 hits, 23 walks and 55 strikeouts in 65 innings. Scott Forster has been an organizational soldier, and in contrast to Davis Moraga has been wild throughout his career. He was off to a good start in Ottawa's bullpen, with a 2.32 ERA and rarely allowing any ball to get hit hard.

Felipe Alou being Felipe Alou, he promptly pressed all three into service on Sunday, and that shouldn't change. Steve Kline and Anthony Telford are still the only reliably known quantities, which gives all three of the new guys and Felipe Lira plenty of opportunities to do more than just mop up.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed RHP Roger Clemens on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP Darrell Einertson from Columbus. [6/15]

Recalled RHP Jake Westbrook from Columbus; optioned RHP Darrell Einertson to Columbus. [6/17]

Watching the Rocket slowly fall from orbit is one of those things that's been sort of lost amidst David Cone's self-immolation and the evaporation of this spring's perceived pitching depth. Because Ed Yarnall is only just coming off of the DL, Jake Westbrook got the callup. This seems strange considering that Ted Lilly is more advanced, and he's even healthy now.

All of this is enough to make cutting Jeff Juden not look like such a great idea. With the offense already imploding, the Yankees could ill afford to watch their rotation start to splinter as well.

While the common perception is that the Yankees and Red Sox can look forward to the division title and the wild card, I don't see it happening as these teams get older and more beat up. The Red Sox aren't playing that well, and neither they nor the Yankees have put the Blue Jays away. The war of words, as each team tries to gull the other into giving up too much for Sammy Sosa, is a reflection of how much each team is trying to seriously harm the long-term future of the opposing organization. That's more to the benefit of the Yankees: they can afford to wait until they're ready to buy Manny Ramirez and work Nick Johnson and D'Angelo Jimenez into the lineup. The Red Sox have the pressure of being the Red Sox, and knowing that Carl Everett will turn, if not into a pumpkin, into a mere mortal shortly after the clock strikes midnight. The Red Sox may get a division championship to brag about, but they won't get much more than that out of this season.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed RHP Omar Olivares on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Luis Vizcaino from Sacramento. [6/17]

Omar Olivares should miss two turns in the rotation, no more than that. The early rumor is that Barry Zito will get called up for the starts, with Luis Vizcaino returning to Sacramento. Chalk this up as more proof that Billy Beane shouldn't have invested as much as he did in the prestige politics of retaining everyone who helped the A's contend last year. Olivares and John Jaha have, predictably, been bad as well as hurt, and Randy Velarde has reverted to his normally fragile state after a career year in 1999.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Jason Boyd on the 15-day DL (broken hand); recalled RHP Steve Schrenk from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/15]

Placed RHP Andy Ashby on the 15-day DL (infected finger); recalled RHP Paul Byrd from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [6/18]

Two out-of-the-ordinary injuries. Jason Boyd ends up the latest victim of inanimate objects that know how to take a punch, while Andy Ashby's middle finger has gotten horribly infected in what perhaps needs to be the cover photo for next year's Phillies media guide.

At least, Paul Byrd enjoyed his assignment to the Barons, cranking out three decent starts and posting a 1.73 ERA. He'll resume his place in the Phillies rotation behind Curt Schilling, Robert Person, Randy Wolf and Cliff Politte. If you have to bet on one of these five not getting hurt, put your money on Byrd.

Meanwhile, losing Ashby clearly doesn't help the Phillies' bid to trade him in the next six weeks. However, while Ed Wade has managed to get both Doug Glanville and Bob Abreu for nothing, I have some reservations about what Wade would end up getting back for Ashby. Sadly, Phillies drafts, while improving, are still considered among the worst, so it isn't like he can even count on the draft picks he'd get for Ashby to make that big of a difference.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed LHP Scott Sauerbeck on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled LHP Chris Peters from Nashville; optioned LHP Jimmy Anderson to Nashville. [6/15]

Recalled RHP Marc Wilkins from Nashville. [6/16]

Scott Sauerbeck is expected back after the minimum two weeks, which is just as well. Neither Chris Peters nor Marc Wilkins were pitching even remotely adequately in Nashville. Peters was giving up almost two baserunners per inning while posting a 5.92 ERA, and replacing Jimmy Anderson after Anderson endured some poor run support in a generally mediocre first 11 weeks is premature. It also leaves the rotation short a man behind Peters, Francisco Cordova, Kris Benson and Todd Ritchie; Wilkins is not a starting pitcher.

In Sauerbeck's absence, the bullpen is reduced to three somewhat reliable relievers: Jason Christiansen (and his bad arm), Mike Williams and Jose Silva.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed LF Greg Vaughn on the 15-day DL (sore hamstring); recalled CF Quinton McCracken from Durham. [6/17]

Who's left from among that fearsome foursome some people were claiming were going to fuel a Devil Rays' run at respectability? Jose Canseco and Vinny Castilla were both already hurt. At least Fred McGriff only hurts those lineups that have his name in them. So instead of the four 30-home-run men, The Team Mike Veeck Forgot is reduced to Randy Winn re-runs.

TEXAS RANGERS

Claimed RHP Jared Camp on waivers from the Indians, and optioned him to Tulsa (Double-A); transferred CF Ruben Mateo from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/16]

Another nice little snag off of the waiver wire by Doug Melvin. Jared Camp nearly made the majors to stay with the Marlins as a Rule 5 pick this spring, and still has the good velocity that attracted attention in the first place. The Rangers can afford to make these sorts of claims courtesy of their miserable luck with injuries, since they can stock the 60-day DL with players like Ruben Mateo and Justin Thompson and, next up, Tom Evans. After the season, Melvin can make some informed choices about who he'll keep on the 40-man roster, after which he can start making some tougher calls about who to outright when somebody makes the team out of camp as a minor-league free agent.

Of course, as Jamey Newberg has pointed out on his outstanding Newberg Minor League Report, the root of this could well be that Melvin would rather not devote too much thought to the big-league squad's collapse.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed C Darrin Fletcher on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/11 (strained shoulder); purchased the contract of C Charlie Greene from Syracuse; transferred CF DeWayne Wise from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/16]

With both the Red Sox and the Yankees struggling mightily, now is the time for the Jays to start mounting their big push. But just when they needed to play their best, they've lost Darrin Fletcher, possibly for the season. He was off to a great start (.335/.364/.563, a .275 EqA), and losing him deposits the Jays into dreaded "three bad bat" territory in the lineup. Now that Craig Grebeck has cooled off, the Jays aren't getting much offense from second base on top of carrying Alex Gonzalez's light hitting. Even if, for the sake of argument, you accept that Jose Cruz Jr. isn't as bad as his poor OBP indicates, the Jays will now have to alternate between the light hitting of Alberto Castillo and Charlie Greene. Greene makes Castillo look like Babe Ruth.

In today's high-offense environment, there aren't many teams that can carry three outs in the lineup. Those you might think could usually have enough starting pitching to survive their offensive limitations, but the Jays don't really have that.

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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