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July 19, 2000

Transaction Analysis

July 13-16, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Activated 3B Matt Williams and 1B Erubiel Durazo from the DL; placed IF Danny Klassen on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (toe); optioned OF Rob Ryan to Tucson. [7/13]

Recalled RHP Nelson Figueroa from Tucson; optioned 1B/OF Travis Lee to Tucson. [7/16]

Perhaps nothing reflects the immediate needs of the Snakes more than the returns of Matt Williams and Erubiel Durazo and the demotion of Travis Lee.

Williams's return is supposed to help the Snakes resolve some of their persistent offensive problems, especially against left-handed pitching. While he hasn't done much this year in the little time he's been healthy enough to play, he did slug above .600 against left-handers in 1999. In a lineup featuring as many left-handed hitters as Arizona has (Durazo, Steve Finley, Luis Gonzalez, Tony Womack and now Jason Conti), they need somebody resembling a right-handed threat. Coming on top of Bernard Gilkey's meltdown, Jay Bell's drawn-out fizzle only compounds the problem, and Greg Colbrunn can only play first base or pinch-hit just once. Counting on a 34-year-old Williams is a risky proposition, and there's a pretty good chance you'll see a lot more of the 1997 or 1998 versions, rather than the 1999 year in the sun.

Travis Lee's troubles (.232/.308/.397 and a .239 Equivalent Average before his demotion) highlight a lesson we should learn: rushing players with little experience above A ball is a bad idea. Lee went into 1998 and his major-league debut with less than 60 games of experience above A ball. Think about what that may mean for player development, especially radically accelerated player development. An advanced college player like Lee gets less than a half-season's worth of playing time against generally solid veterans of the upper levels of the minors, guys like Larry Luebbers or Blaine Beatty, before getting exposed to the highest level of competition there is. Add in that he's played in a cozy park like High Desert, a bandbox like Tucson and a good hitter's park like the Bank One Ballpark, and it's no surprise that he still has a lot to learn about hitting.

The need to trade for some right-handed sock seems obvious, except that the farm system is running close to empty after last year's trades. Because of Omar Daal's struggles and the never-ending arm problems of Todd Stottlemyre and Armando Reynoso, they can't afford to part with either smuggled import Geraldo Guzman or Nelson Figueroa. Jack Cust is just about the last remaining position prospect worth mentioning. Matt Mantei's name is being bandied about, and they could replace him easily enough in the closer's role with Byung-Hyun Kim and on the roster with Johnny Ruffin. Trading him, though, would only add an exclamation point to why it was such a bad idea to acquire him in the first place, even without considering his persistent arm problems.

In short, the Snakes look like a team that could crater in a hurry, even if everyone in the lineup stays healthy. They don't have the talent in the organization to fix problems that arise with the talent on the roster. If they hold on to win, it'll be a great accomplishment considering they're operating without a net.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the DL; designated RHP Dave Stevens for assignment. [7/13]

Placed 2B Quilvio Veras on the 15-day DL (torn ACL); recalled UT Steve Sisco from Richmond. [7/15]

Too much has already been made about how much Quilvio Veras's absence is going to be felt because of his stolen bases, but getting caught 12 times to go with his 25 successful nabs essentially wiped out the value of his speed. The more critical loss is his .409 OBP.

Considering he's gone for the season and the Braves have already discarded Bruce Chen as if he were a beer-soaked foam tomahawk, we'll all get a really long look at Rafael Furcal. Furcal stands a good chance of being overextended by everyday play, and Keith Lockhart hardly provides a viable alternative. Unlike the Snakes, the Braves have other minor-league arms they could peddle for some semi-adequate journeyman to help out in the infield, but that kind of player will not significantly help this year's pursuit of the pennant.

That chase for postseason glory was the central reason for getting Veras in the first place, and now that he's gone, the short-term payoffs of this winter's deal with the Padres is spent; the most you can say for the long term is that the Braves have an open outfield corner in 2001, and the money to fill it. Worst of all, losing Veras might also give the Mets just enough incentive to pull off a big deal for a shortstop or a centerfielder.

The Braves can at least cheer up on two counts. Mike Remlinger has easily been their best reliever this season, and his time on the DL was due to a reaction to the dye used in the MRI of his elbow, and not the elbow itself. If he's fine for the rest of the season, they'll be much better able to afford patience with John Rocker.

The other happy news is that while Steve Sisco (.274/.328/.443 with Richmond) is hardly a star or an ideal replacement for Veras, he is at least a better bench player than some people who have littered Braves' postseason rosters of the recent past.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed 3B Dave Hollins to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to Rochester. [7/13]

Placed 3B Ryan Minor on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (strained ribcage); recalled IF Ivanon Coffie from Bowie (Double-A). [7/15]

As bad as the Orioles are, sometimes they give you hints that they want to be even worse. How else to explain why a bad, old team would add worse, old players like Mark Lewis, Darren Holmes and now Dave Hollins? The Redbirds have little chance of competing with Buffalo, Pawtucket or Scranton in their division, so adding Hollins doesn't even merit consideration as a Triple-A playoff move.

Ivanon Coffie was the starting shortstop for the American League in the Double-A All-Star game, and while he's not really a tremendous prospect, he's a young left-handed hitter who can play anywhere in the infield. After hitting .264/.338/.420 at Bowie, he has a reasonably good chance to be the new Ernest Riles, who was pretty valuable as a part-timer and useful utility man in his prime. Coffie is up to fill in temporarily at third base until either Cal Ripken or Ryan Minor heal, and one of them will be ready by the end of the week.

BOSTON RED SOX

Activated RHP Pedro Martinez from the DL. [7/13]

Optioned 1B Dernell Stenson to Pawtucket; activated CF Darren Lewis from the DL. [7/14]

Dernell Stenson was banished without an opportunity to play, but fortunately for the Sox, Troy O'Leary came back from his stint on the DL a new man, while Morgan Burkhart continues to impress. With Burkhart and Brian Daubach, you need to tip your cap to the Duke for how he's spreading his money: he's spent top dollar on top offensive players in important defensive positions, like Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Everett, and done his bargain shopping in slots like first base and DH. A lot of organizations could learn a thing or two from that approach, instead of shelling out good money to the Rico Brognas, Kevin Youngs and Mark Graces of the world. The statement isn't seamless, of course: Jose Offerman and Mike Stanley aren't looking like nifty investments nowadays, let alone Darren Lewis.

Oh, and the team's meal ticket is back on the bus.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned RHP Ruben Quevedo to Iowa; recalled CF Gary Matthews Jr. from Iowa. [7/14]

It's just as well that they send Ruben Quevedo away for the next two weeks. Blistered fingers or bad pitching aside, if the organization wants to capitalize at all on the decision to rent Ismael Valdes, they need him to make three starts between now and the end of the month to set up a trade.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned LHP Jesus Pena to Birmingham (Double-A); purchased the contract of LHP Mark Buehrle from Birmingham. [7/16]

Jesus Pena's demotion coincided with his admission that he was trying to crease a Cardinal noggin or two, but five home runs in 22 1/3 innings probably didn't help his case any either. Still, you can't help but hope the hot dog gets back, if only for the amusement factor.

Mark Buehrle is coming up after a tremendous half-season with Birmingham: a 2.28 ERA, with 95 hits and 17 walks allowed in 118 2/3 innings, with only eight home runs allowed. While obviously helped by his ballpark (a 1.84 home ERA versus 3.12 on the road), he also owns one of the nastiest pickoff moves this side of Terry Mulholland (info courtesy of Baseball America's Lacy Lusk, who told me this not long before I watched him pick off the leadoff man in the Double-A All-Star Game).

Buehrle is up too soon for my taste, but having him up at the same time as Jon Garland gives the Sox the opportunity to mix and match them in the fifth spot, spotting Buehrle against teams like the Yankees or Athletics while saving Garland for heavily right-handed lineups. Since the fifth spot gets skipped, that also affords the Sox the opportunity to use either of them in middle relief, sort of in the same role in which Kevin Beirne is already being used. That just highlights the fact that the Sox really need to make room for a 14th position player, either a healthy and rehabbed Craig Wilson or a fifth outfielder.

In the big picture, Buehrle represents what the Sox have going for them in terms of player development: pitching. Like any true pitcher-development program, the focus isn't on one great prospect, but on the broad variety and sheer number of types of prospects the Sox have coming up. Since the casualty rate will be tremendous, it isn't a question of whether or not they will all pan out; some of them won't. But Buehrle, Kip Wells, Lorenzo Barcelo, Rocky Biddle, Jon Garland, Josh Fogg, Matt Ginter and Jon Rauch are names you should remember, because there's a pretty good chance that a couple of them will be more than just rotation regulars during the next decade.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RF Manny Ramirez from the DL; outrighted RHP Brian Williams to Buffalo. [7/13]

Purchased contract of RHP Jaime Navarro from Buffalo; optioned RHP Sean DePaula to Buffalo. [7/15]

Set aside all the speculation over whether the Tribe will deal Manny Ramirez. If the Indians can't mount a threat to the White Sox in the next two-and-a-half weeks they should, especially considering their recent drafts. But with him around, they may well be able to mount that charge, as they can reduce Ricky Ledee, Russ Branyan, Alex Ramirez and Richie Sexson into two strong platoons in left field and at DH, which is best for all parties. Plus, a strong bench is a great way to create big innings or mess with the opposing manager's pitcher substitutions. Since the Tribe is entering a weak stretch in the schedule, now's as good a time as they're going to have to mount a rally.

Just as importantly, the bullpen's looking like it's almost fully functional. Steve Karsay, Steve Reed and Paul Shuey have been reinforced with Justin Speier and Andrew Lorraine, filling the Tribe's need for adequate middle relievers and your basic lefty garbageman. Sean DePaula has gone Chad Ogea, down the path blazed by the original, shuttling from postseason hero to perpetual Bison.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Signed 3B Jeff Cirillo to a four-year contract extension. [7/13]

Placed LHP Scott Karl on the 15-day DL (strained lower back). [7/15]

Acquired DH Butch Huskey and 2B Todd Walker from the Twins for 1B Todd Sears and cash; placed C Scott Servais on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (strained calf); recalled C Ben Petrick from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of RHP Bobby Chouinard from Colorado Springs; designated OF Bubba Carpenter for assignment. [7/16]

While the rush to nominate Dan O'Dowd for all sorts of smart-guy prizes has caught up even yours truly at times, I'm at a loss to explain what the Rockies expect to do with Todd Walker and Butch Huskey. Neither of them have defensive positions, and neither of them have done much besides wash out. Walker, far-removed from the expectations of Tom Kelly and a few thousand baseball fans, wasn't hitting much in Utah (.324/.396/.415, with a whopping two taters in 277 plate appearances), no matter how happy he claimed he was.

Where picking up Walker makes sense is if the Rox decide to build a second-base platoon. Neifi Perez can sit his light-hitting keister on the bench, with Mike Lansing moving over to shortstop. He wasn't a very good shortstop with either the Miami Miracle or the Montreal Expos, but he does have pro experience at the position. That would open up second for a platoon of Walker and Terry Shumpert, which could do some damage. It would mean scragging the defense, but it's Coors Field, and years of Perez haven't helped make a difference in the past any more than Vinny Castilla or Fonzie Bichette did.

Huskey is interesting, if only because he has some similarities to Jeffrey Hammonds. Like Hammonds, before Coors he struck out in about 17% of his PAs. Like Hammonds, he slugged almost .450 (.447 to .454) before this year, and both players owned .268 batting averages before this year. Neither one of them walks much. Could Huskey end up hitting anything like Hammonds? I don't see why not. He's eight months younger, doesn't have Hammonds's terrible knee problems, and hey, it's Planet Coors: everything's in orbit.

If he ends up thriving, chalk this up as another example of O'Dowd's comparatively scientific approach to identifying who he wants playing in his stratosphere. But even if you want to create a tortured scenario to get Walker on the field, it's an even uglier one that gets Huskey any kind of playing time.

Losing Scott Karl forces Buddy Bell across that bridge of no return, having to stick with both Kevin Jarvis and Brian Bohanon as full-time starters. That could mean call-ups for Rigo Beltran and Giovanni Carrara, as both have been pretty effective at Colorado Springs.

The truly good news is that Ben Petrick is back. While it's just to platoon to start off, he should eventually force his way into a straight job-sharing situation, and then force Mayne to the caddy role before the end of his contract. As trade bait for teams like the Braves or possibly even the A's, Mayne will eventually give O'Dowd a nice chit to add another prospect or two. Fun with minor-league data: against left-handers in the Pacific Coast League, Petrick was hitting .448 and slugging above .800, which is the kind of fun you get with all of 58 at-bats.

DETROIT TIGERS

Placed 1B Tony Clark on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/15 (strained back); recalled 1B Eric Munson from Jacksonville (Double-A). [7/16]

Tony Clark was finally doing the Tigers some good, and around the right time--the trading deadline--when his back troubles put him on the shelf. Having already lost Rob Fick, the Tigers did the best thing they could with the only commodity they have, which is playing time: take a look at Eric Munson. While Munson wasn't being a dominant hitter at Double-A (.261/.349/.471), he is the organization's future at first base. Once Fick returns, if Munson earns his keep this may encourage them to make Fick a regular at catcher, or at least the second coming of Johnny Wockenfuss.

That still leaves them trying to find a way to move Clark or Juan Gonzalez, but Juango's the one who might at least fetch some value. Clark won't be ready to come off of the DL until a day or two before the deadline, but he is the kind of player who may pass through waivers and get dealt before the end of August.

There is the question of why Munson gets to come up before Alejandro Freire, who slowly but surely earned the dreaded minor-league hitter label (.272/.373/.472 at Jacksonville, at the relatively old age of 26). Munson is the prospect who might do something to save Randy Smith's bacon, while Freire is just another guy who can outhit Gregg Jefferies and Luis Polonia.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Named Mike Maddux as the new pitching coach at Round Rock (Double-A). [7/13]

Mike Maddux is replacing Burt Hooton, who in turn replaced Vern Ruhle on the major-league team. That should produce great instructions like "If you can't throw as hard as the owner, try to have my kid brother's command of your breaking stuff. I taught him everything he knows, donchaknow."

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Optioned RHP Jeff D'Amico to Omaha; recalled LHP Tim Byrdak from Omaha. [7/15]

Jeff D'Amico still has a long way to go before earning consideration as a worthwhile position-player-to-pitcher conversion, let alone being mistaken for the hugely talented (or talented and huge) Jeff D'Amico of the Brewers. At this stage, he's ahead of Jeff Hamilton and far behind someone like Guillermo Mota within the always-trendy group of conversion projects.

Tim Byrdak fills the bill as token left-hander in the pen, which is all the more important for the time being now that Muser is down to only two trustworthy relievers (Jose Santiago and Jerry Spradlin) now that Dan Reichert is in the rotation.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated RHP Jeff Shaw from the DL; recalled C Paul LoDuca from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Jamie Arnold and UT Mike Metcalfe to Albuquerque. [7/13]

Paul LoDuca is up to compensate for the twin misfortunes of Chad Kreuter's continuing suspension and Todd Hundley's broken thumb. Kreuter's suspension is at least over, leaving the Dodgers fully covered on the roster, and Hundley is expected to return to the DL in short order.

Hundley's return at full health will be a key component of any Dodgers' drive to unseat the Snakes, which considering their problems is turning the NL West into a mass of mauled and mangled rosters limping into the final two months. The real winners from this predicament are the Braves and Mets, since chances are that both of them will make the playoffs instead of just one of them.

Jeff Shaw's return won't do much for the Dodgers if they limit him to the closer's role. If they instead allow him to work his way back to full strength (if it's even possible) with structured, regular work in middle relief, they could end up with as good a six-man pen as any in baseball now that they have him, Antonio Osuna, Terry Adams, Matt Herges, a surprising Mike Fetters and, finally, Onan Masaoka.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded 2B Todd Walker and DH Butch Huskey to the Rockies for 1B Todd Sears and cash. [7/16]

Talk about going out of your way to make sure everyone knows you can't stand somebody.... Todd Sears isn't really a great prospect. He's a huge hitter with a disciplined stroke enjoying a good year in his first season at Double-A (.306/.441/.503), but he's already 24. Not to mention that sending Todd Walker to the best hitting environment in the major leagues is a great way to make themselves look bad in the media, if almost irrelevant to their own team.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Purchased the contract of LHP Joey Eischen from Adirondack of the Northern League, and assigned him to Ottawa. [7/13]

Placed OF Rondell White on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (pulled hamstring); recalled 3B/1B Andy Tracy from Ottawa. [7/14]

Placed SS Orlando Cabrera on the 15-day DL (separated shoulder); recalled SS Tomas De La Rosa from Ottawa. [7/15]

Add more tinder to the funeral pyre of Montreal baseball. Trading Rondell White is something that would make sense in normal circumstances, but the team is still clinging to wild-card dreams. New owner Jeff Loria would probably prefer to not even make the appearance of throwing in the towel as long as he can keep the focus on Quebecois perfidy as a central reason for the need to skip town. An additional factor could have been Milton Bradley's various owies at Ottawa, but that shouldn't have played as important a part as the political considerations. So now White is hurt (again) as well as disenchanted.

Perhaps its just as well: it wouldn't be hard to see how he could become a much larger star if the team was playing in RFK Stadium, as one of the team's Anglophones as well as one of those guys who deserves more credit for hard-nosed play.

Orlando Cabrera's game is one that seems to show up in bits and pieces. His defense comes and goes, ranging from spectacular to indifferent; he flashes just enough power to convince some people that he'll hit for more someday, and the speed that was his offensive signature in the minors has gone on vacation. In his absence, the Expos can play a nice platoon of Geoff Blum and Tomas De La Rosa, with De La Rosa also coming in for defense.

Andy Tracy's return brings to the fore the issue of whether or not the Expos should finally do the right thing as far as Michael Barrett is concerned. There are several catchers who should be available at the trading deadline, and among those available Chris Widger ought to command a good return. That would let the Expos finally get Barrett back behind the plate. Unfortunately, there isn't really another third baseman in the organization, the move of first-round pick Josh McKinley to third base notwithstanding.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Purchased the contract of OF Ryan Thompson from Columbus; recalled OF Luke Wilcox from Columbus. [7/13]

Optioned LHP Craig Dingman to Columbus to make room for some guy named Neagle. [7/14]

Optioned OF Luke Wilcox to Columbus; recalled IF Clay Bellinger from Columbus. [7/16]

In the sordid story of "who's our fourth outfielder now?", the Yankees are finally approaching something that resembles the right answer. While Felix Jose's continued presence on the roster, in the Lance Johnson spot, is cronyism at it's worst and might give hope to people ranging from Ruben Sierra to Oscar Azocar to Steve Kemp, at least Ryan Thompson actually played well enough at Columbus to earn a spot on the big-league bench. In addition to hitting well (.304/.359/.638, with 20 home runs in 262 plate appearances), Thompson finally gives the Yankees a backup center fielder. He can also look forward to starts in an outfield corner against left-handed pitching.

It says something about the Yankees' state of mind that they now have three defensive replacements for Chuck Knoblauch on the roster, and someone like Felix Jose to pinch-hit for Clay Bellinger, Jose Vizcaino and Wilson Delgado. The Yankees still desperately need to cherry-pick some over-30 outfielders from teams that don't need them.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed DH John Jaha on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (shoulder tendinitis); recalled 3B/LF Adam Piatt from Sacramento. [7/13]

It isn't often that people with a sabermetric bent to them argue against the value of someone with a .398 OBP, but just as I doubted the value of Dave Magadan as a regular by the early 1990s, I have more than a few reservations as far as John Jaha is concerned. The A's already have plenty of guys familiar with how to get on base. What they need, especially against left-handed pitching, is somebody who can regularly deliver some hard-hit balls in play. Adam Piatt is a much better option to have batting in the sixth or seventh slot in the lineup, not to mention that he adds some positional flexibility to Art Howe's bench.

The A's had to be prepared for this, having given Jaha the first (and last) multi-year contract of his career. The politics behind the decision to give him that contract say a lot about how even a well-run organization feels obligated to make prestige-oriented signings or re-signings. It can happen either to keep other players happy, to make the right kind of impression on season-ticket buyers or to generate the kind of headlines that can influence nearby communities which might be gearing up to help build a new stadium. Because the A's had talented right-handed hitters like Piatt and Jason Hart on their way up, you could argue they could afford to sign Jaha for these kinds of atmospheric considerations, but it isn't an argument I'd like to try to win.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Wayne Gomes on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/7 (elbow tendinitis); recalled RHP Mark Brownson from Scranton/Wilkes Barre; assigned LHP Jimmy Osting to Reading (Double-A). [7/14]

Considering that he was among the league leaders in appearances, it shouldn't surprise that Wayne Gomes broke down. This is the flip side of Terry Francona's special talent with how he handles his pitching staffs: in addition to his fixation on leaving starters out too long for morale purposes, he tends to overuse his better relievers by riding the hot hand instead of spreading the work around over the course of a season. So Gomes bites the dust after being the Phillies' most effective late-innings reliever, leaving a bullpen filled with six journeymen who don't throw especially hard or well, although Chris Brock has been a godsend in middle relief. While there are plenty of good relievers who don't throw hard who happen to be journeymen, it ought to be a continuing item of concern that it doesn't look like anyone can stay healthy while working for Francona.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed IF Luis Sojo on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/3 (elbow tendinitis); recalled 2B/SS Abraham Nunez from Nashville. [7/13]

Placed RHP Francisco Cordova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (elbow tendinitis); placed CF Adrian Brown on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/6 (strained hamstring); recalled LHP Jimmy Anderson from Altoona (Double-A); recalled RHP Bronson Arroyo from Nashville. [7/16]

The Bucs continue to talk tough about how they're not satisfied with what's happened this year, but who's really to blame? This is the team Cam Bonifay wanted, from Wil Cordero on down. They're about as good as anyone should have expected, better if you consider how badly the pitching staff has broken down this season. Francisco Cordova is giving up more than 5.5 runs per nine innings and Jason Schmidt has been fragged. Now they're reduced to using both Jimmy Anderson and Bronson Arroyo in the rotation, which is a bad spot for a team some people rushed to tout as a contender before this season.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed 1B Mark McGwire on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/7 (sore knee); activated 1B Eduardo Perez from the DL. [7/13]

Placed LHP Mike Matthews on the 15-day DL (hand); activated SS Placido Polanco from the DL. [7/16]

So far, the plan has worked, and it looks even better if you consider the unscripted absence of Fernando Tatis for a couple of months. The three rented veteran starters in the rotation have been sturdily adequate, the three replacement starters (Matt Morris, Alan Benes and Mark Thompson) are all pitching well in long relief, and the offense, while cooling off from its early grandeur, is chugging along.

It's at this moment that losing Mark McGwire might be affordable, as long as it's only for two weeks. If it's longer, it won't take long for people to start noticing just how little regulars like Edgar Renteria, Craig Paquette and Mike Matheny are contributing on offense.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed C Carlos Hernandez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/6 (lower back strain); recalled RHP Carlos Almanzar from Las Vegas; outrighted RHP Carlos Reyes to Las Vegas. [7/13]

Purchased the contract of OF/1B Joe Vitiello from Las Vegas; optioned OF Dusty Allen to Las Vegas. [7/16]

While he's scuttling back to the DL, let us all herald the possibility that Carlos Hernandez represents. Should the silly proposal of Bud Selig's blue-ribbon economic committee, that all teams be forced to spend $40 million on player payroll, come to pass, there's a good line of argument that mediocrities like Hernandez can automatically expect oversized multi-year contracts as teams race to fulfill this odious requirement. The other line of thought is that some teams will instead pay the A-Rods and the Nomars even more money in multi-year deals signed even earlier in careers, but that sort of activity will probably be restricted to the better-run franchises, while the Hernandez deals get showered on players in Philadelphia and Baltimore and San Diego.

In Hernandez's absence, the Pads can get to where they should have been in the first place, alternating Ben Davis and Wiki Gonzalez behind the plate. Neither player is going to grow up to be a great two-way star, but a Davis/Gonzalez tandem fits in pretty comfortably in a division that features other successful catcher job-sharing situations, like Arizona's Damian Miller/Kelly Stinnett duo or the Giants' combo of Bobby Estalella and Doug Mirabelli.

Kudos to Joe Vitiello on his return to the majors. While I'm taking Kevin Towers to task on other fronts, it always seems as if he's able to stock Las Vegas with a few good veteran minor-league hitters. People like Vitiello and John Roskos and even Dusty Allen could help teams as pinch-hitters and spare parts, and each of them would make a fine platoon partner for Ryan Klesko at first. Hence the ease with which the Pads can dispatch an Ed Sprague and not come close to missing him.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed RHP Joe Nathan on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation); recalled RHP Scott Linebrink from Fresno. [7/14]

Losing Joe Nathan ought to be the first blow in what's going to be another meltdown in the Giants' rotation. He was giving up close to six runs per nine innings while walking almost six men per nine, and while his pitch counts weren't too high, he was spending a good chunk of his time on the mound pitching from the stretch. This is a situation where a tool like Rany Jazayerli's Pitcher Abuse Points can only hint at pitcher misuse, and why it represents an important step in the evolution of diagnostic statistical tools for pitcher use and abuse.

In Nathan's absence, Mark Gardner re-enters the rotation. While we've talked about how Pat Gillick's decision to retain seven viable starting pitchers is probably the only way to cope with having Lou Piniella run a pitching staff, Brian Sabean deserves similar credit for carrying a sixth starter to enter the rotation as soon as another pitcher collapses under a Dusty Baker workload. A better pitcher than Gardner would help make the Giants' playoff dreams a little more realistic, but the point will be moot when Shawn Estes breaks down by the end of August.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated C Dan Wilson from the DL; designated C Robert Machado for assignment; placed SS Alex Rodriguez on the 15-day DL (sprained knee). [7/14]

Recalled UT Charles Gipson from Tacoma. [7/15]

That big sucking sound from the Pacific Northwest wasn't just coming from hundreds of surprised Microsoft lawyers, but also from thousands of equally frightened Mariners fans. Lose A-Rod for any length of time, and happy stories about pitching and defense and Pat Gillick's genius die faster than Darva Conger's celebrity status. It looks like Rodriguez will be back before deadline worries force Gillick to turn one of his spare starting pitchers into a desperately needed second and/or third baseman.

Dan Wilson's return still doesn't represent an improvement for the team's offense, unless his time off gave him the rest he may have needed to recover from the long decline his hitting has been in for the last four years.

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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2000-07-14 - Transaction Analysis: July 10-12, 2000
2000-07-12 - Transaction Analysis: July 4-9, 2000
2000-07-05 - Transaction Analysis: June 22 - July 3, 2000
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