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June 26, 2000

Transaction Analysis

June 19-21, 2000

by Keith Law

(Ed. note: Chris Kahrl is wending his way from Chicago to Washington, D.C., so Keith Law steps in for him. A new TA by Chris will be available later this week.)

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated RHP Calvin Maduro from the 15-day disabled list; optioned RHP Gabe Molina to Rochester of the International League (AAA). [6/20]

Activating Calvin Maduro when he really wasn't pitching that well before his DL stint doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Come to think of it, neither does demoting a reliever who actually gave the team two scoreless outings since his callup.

BOSTON RED SOX

Placed LHP Jeff Fassero on the 15-day disabled list ("tired arm"); placed OF Troy O'Leary on the 15-day disabled list (personal reasons); activated RHP Bryce Florie from the 15-day disabled list; recalled OF Curtis Pride and RHP Rob Stanifer from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); optioned IF Donnie Sadler to Pawtucket. [6/19]

Optioned RHP Rob Stanifer to Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); recalled LHP Tim Young from Pawtucket. [6/20]

Chaos in the clubhouse leads to chaos on the field? Let's see: the Sox brought up Rob Stanifer, hung him out to dry like wet linens and sent him back down in favor of a competent short left-hander who's likely to go back down pretty quickly.

Jeff Fassero's DL placement came as a surprise, as there was no medical exam before the roster move, so it looks like the Sox have simply diagnosed him as having a sudden case of the sucks, likely related to the long bout he had with the disorder last year. Although Tomokazu Ohka will be Fassero's replacement in the rotation, Bryce Florie could find himself drafted for starting duty if he shows himself fully healed.

Topping Fassero in the enigma department is Troy O'Leary, who isn't hurt but is going through a bitter divorce and custody battle. Regardless, he hasn't hit a lick all season, so the team had to excise him from the lineup one way or another. If they got the nerve to put Curtis Pride out in the field and live with the mediocre defense, they would probably get a pleasant surprise at the plate to tide them over until they find a real outfielder...or a real third baseman...or a real second baseman. Instead, they'll probably play Darren Lewis and ensure themselves of another three or four automatic outs every game.

DETROIT TIGERS

Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Sparks from Toledo of the International League (AAA); designated pitcher Allen McDill for assignment. [6/20]

Knuckleballers are great for lousy teams who just need someone to soak up the innings between now and October 1. Detroit is a lousy team. Steve Sparks will be great for them.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed LHP Billy Wagner on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 19, with a partial tear of the flexor tendon in his left elbow; recalled RHP Jose Cabrera from New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/20]

Billy Wagner's injury--probably season-ending, but not that serious in the long haul--provides the Astros with some convenient cover for their current impersonation of the Milwaukee Brewers, since now they can claim that they couldn't possibly win anything without their closer. In reality, the impact of losing a pitcher who might reach 70 innings in a season just because he's The CloserTM is significantly overstated. In fact, the Astros are much better off telling Wagner to come back next year, because even an average reliever will fare better in the ninth inning than Wagner has thus far this year.

In his absence, closing duties will fall to a committee of Doug Henry, Jay Powell and the peanut vendor from section 113. But don't be surprised to see Jose Cabrera sneak into that mix; he's been an excellent reliever when healthy, and has the best stuff of anyone left in the Astro pen.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Traded IF Jose Vizcaino to the New York Yankees for UT Jim Leyritz and cash. [6/21]

Getting Jim Leyritz at least gives Davey Johnson a second weapon of sorts on the bench, and an emergency catcher if giant meteors fall on Todd Hundley, Paul LoDuca and Chad Kreuter. What the deal doesn't get them is the left-handed bat they could use on the bench, but when the bait you use is Jose Vizcaino, you have to be happy with whatever the sea spits out at you.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed OF Emil Brown on the 15-day DL (urological surgery); recalled 3B Aramis Ramirez from Nashville of Pacific Coast League (AAA). [6/19]

The Pirates haven't let anything leak out about Emil Brown's injury, but if it gets Aramis Ramirez back to the majors, Buc fans should be pleased. Gene Lamont says he'll give Ramirez a chance to reclaim the job that should rightfully be his, but it sounds as if the opportunity will be short. The organization is already kvetching about his low power numbers from the minors. If they're hell-bent on not liking the kid, there are probably 20 teams in the majors who'd gladly take him off their hands, so why don't they trade him and convert him into something they're willing to use?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed 2B Fernando Vina on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with a strained right hamstring; activated RHP Mike James from the 15-day disabled list. [6/21]

Fernando Vina's injury isn't that bad, but the Cardinals made the move as a precautionary measure, or perhaps because Vina has been an off-base machine since April. Vina's absence will merely expose the folly of LaRussa's practice of stocking his bench with decrepit veterans who never met a pitch they couldn't pop up. Expect Placido Polanco to get most of the playing time and to see his average drop as his at bats rise.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Optioned RHP Rodrigo Lopez to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); purchased the contract of RHP Brian Tollberg from Las Vegas. [6/19]

Brian Tollberg is a soft-tosser who missed much of last year with injuries. He had posted adequate numbers before then and good numbers this year in the tough environment of Las Vegas. His first two starts have been impressive but likely not a harbinger of future dominance. Still, with Stan Spencer out for four to six weeks, Tollberg should get several more chances to show that he can be a league-average pitcher for a team that was considering calling Rick Wise for a tryout.

Keith Law can be reached at klaw@baseballprospectus.com.

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