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August 9, 2000

Transaction Analysis

August 3-6, 2000

by Christina Kahrl


Placed RHP Troy Percival on the 15-day DL (shoulder pain). [8/4]

Placed RHP Seth Etherton on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled LHP Juan Alvarez and RHP Lou Pote from Edmonton. [8/5]

Despite Percival's struggles, from the well-publicized nine blown saves or the control problems or the taters or the ERA creeping towards 5.00, he was still part of one of the American League's better bullpens. But now that they've lost Al Levine after a tremendous season in middle relief as well as Percival, Mike Scioscia's in the unfortunate position of turning Shiggy Hasegawa into the closer just as he was starting to improve in the long relief role. All things considered, I don't think this will hurt the Angels as much as losing Etherton does. The pen still has Mark Petkovsek pitching well, Mike Holtz has been solid in the situational lefty role, and Mike Fyhrie has been another one of Scioscia's little success stories as a long reliever. Lou Pote should come in handy, as he was having a reasonably good run as Edmonton's closer.

The bigger problem is how the Angels are going to fill their rotation for the time being. Ken Hill's going to be released, Etherton's out, and even with Jarrod Washburn due back and a strategically placed off-day that could keep them from having to use a fifth starter until early next week, either somebody's going to be called up or somebody's going to be asked to start a game. Unless they finally shed their reluctance to use Derrick Turnbow, the Angels have choices involving calling up Ramon Ortiz or plugging Matt Wise into the rotation. But as long as they aren't handing out starts to Bavasi's buzzards, they're better.


Activated INF-R Mark Lewis from the DL; optioned 2B-R Carlos Casimiro to Bowie (Double-A). [8/5]

Lewis went from being just another greybeard in the crowd to one of the oldest position players on the roster. His future with the team is limited at best. Indeed, if the Orioles wanted to get creative, they could share short among lefty-hitting Ivanon Coffie, utility man Melvin Mora and the slick-fielding Jesse Garcia. Lewis' spot on the roster could be handed to Jerry Hairston Jr., who would take over at second. That would allow the Orioles to start an overdue project, which is to get Delino DeShields off of second. DeShields would have considerably more value if he started logging a few games at third and in left field.


Claimed 1B-L Rico Brogna off of waivers from the Phillies. [8/3]

Optioned DH-B Morgan Burkhart to Pawtucket; added Brogna to the active roster; designated DH-R Sean Berry for assignment. [8/4]

You know, the Red Sox could have used a great-fielding first baseman with limited offensive skills about fourteen years ago. Wait a minute, they already had Dave Stapleton in 1986, and Brogna may not hit any better than Stapleton would right now. Brogna hasn't been a better-than-league average hitter (not just first baseman, hitter) since 1996. He's a natural replacement for Troy Neel in the Japanese Leagues saddled with a good-guy reputation and that great glove. Some slick leather and little bit of charm might make you a first-choice staffer for the Clinton Presidential Library, but a regular on a contender?

This move is just the ultimate pickup in a sordid line of pickups. Whether its been Gary Gaetti or Mike Stanley or Sean Berry or Ed Sprague or Mike Lansing or Brogna, let alone holdovers like Darren Lewis and Troy O'Leary, the Duke has had an unerring instinct to find players with next to no offensive value. I don't know if you could randomly select a worse collection of players to man third, left and DH, but I'm willing to bet there's a growing crowd of Red Sox fans willing to find out.


Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/30 (strained oblique); activated OF-R Rondell White from the DL. [8/6]

Hey, its okay, its "only" an injury caused by something other than throwing a baseball. He got it while jogging, really! If he really hasn't reinjured his arm (keep in mind that this is the team that obfuscated, denied, waggled and fibbed its way around Wood's arm problems in August of 1998), then all this really hurts the Cubs' all-important goal of seeing whether or not the Reds can fall back as far as third, defaulting second place to the Cubs.

The one thing the Cubs have going for them is a well-balanced lineup. Generally speaking, the worst offensive contributors are the people you'd expect (Joe Girardi, Ricky Gutierrez and Damon Buford), except that none of them are having bad seasons. When Willie Greene might be doing the least to help a team offensively, that's an offense where a lot of things are going well. As much as Mark Grace is starting to slip, he's still contributing, and if Rondell White hits like he can, the Cubs might even be able to take advantage of the best group of middle relievers they've had since guys like Les Lancaster, Paul Assenmacher and Chuck McElroy were all on the same team. That could mean continued flirting with .500, which will be heralded as a major success.


Placed C-L Eddie Taubensee on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/1 (bulging disk - back). [8/3]

Purchased the contract of UT-R Chris Sexton from Louisville. [8/4]

Activated RHP Osvaldo Fernandez from the DL and optioned him to Louisville. [8/5]

Acquired CF-R Brian Hunter from the Rockies for RHP Robert Averette. [8/6]

Few GMs have as much of a Jekyll-Hyde character as Jim Bowden when it comes to trades, because for every really clever move, Bowden makes more boners than you'd think. Brian Hunter is the hot potato that you just shouldn't even try to catch in the first place. He's rarely worth a waiver claim, unless you're some team so desperate for a fourth outfielder that you're the Expos. Maybe Jim Bowden can take solace that if two other GMs made major mistakes involving Hunter within the last nine months, then maybe someone will take him off of his hands, but this move looks like another addition to the Ruben Sierra Wing of Bowden's bad deals. Never mind Hunter's lousy Equivalent Average (.199). Never mind his years of ineptitude. The Reds gave up one of the few starting pitcher prospects they have for a guy hitting .195/.271/.207 away from Coors Field. If you wanted to find someone to make people wish Freon Deion was tapping two-hoppers, Hunter's your guy. While Averette may not end up looking so hot pitching for the Rockies, he has value, while Hunter is as valuable now as he was last year or the year before that, and he'll be about as valuable for years to come. Its slightly more valuable than Herb Washington was, and a little less than Miguel Dilone may still be.

The only good news here is that at least the Reds have called up an outstanding replacement for Chris Stynes on the bench as the utilityman now that Stynes is playing third every day. Sexton has enjoyed a great year at Louisville, hitting .324/.416/.432. He can handle second and the outfield corners well enough, and gives the Reds some options when they'll want to pinch-hit for Brian Hunter without using one of the pitchers.


Activated LHP Tom Martin from the DL; promoted 1B/OF-R Chan Perry from Buffalo; optioned 3B/RF-L Russell Branyan and LHP Cameron Cairncross to Buffalo. [8/4]

As much as Branyan is a victim of the organization's desperate drive for the wild-card, with the collection of withering dreck the Tribe has on the roster, he'll be back. While Branyan and Cordero might seem like a great job-sharing arrangement in one outfield corner, especially with Manny Ramirez' chronically cranky hamstring, its just as well that Branyan not be too closely associated with the team when it fails to make the playoffs. That bonus should go to John Hart and the pricey veterans he gathered 'round. The really sad part of it is that the Tribe would have been better off investing the few million dollars spent on Cordero and Segui and Bere and Wickman and added it to the kitty for whatever signing bonus they should be offering Manny Ramirez. Instead, there's a very good chance that the money wasted on the desperate attempt to keep the team's playoff appearance streak alive will cost the Indians a lot more than the talent given up or the money spent to have Cordero around for the next two years. It could cost them the best player on the team, and savvy winter shoppers know Ramirez is worth considerably more than whatever Sammy Sosa or Juan Gonzalez are going to do for the rest of their careers.

At least Branyan's absence isn't merely for the sake of some used-up veteran, as the Tribe made the relatively classy gesture of bringing up organizational soldier Chan Perry. This is the sixth year in the organization for Herbert's younger brother, and this is a nice way of giving him a reason to re-sign as a minor league free agent this winter.


Activated LHP Scott Karl from the DL; placed RHP Giovanni Carrara on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/3 (sore elbow). [8/5]

Acquired RHP Robert Averette from the Reds for CF-R Brian Hunter; purchased the contract of RHP Craig House from Colorado Springs; optioned RHP David Lee to Colorado Springs. [8/6]

Hats off to Dan O'Dowd for doing the impossible, converting Brian Hunter into somebody better than a Triple-A lifer. Averette's not an obviously talented pitcher. He doesn't have the great fastball, but he was recently listed as having the best breaking stuff in the Southern League, not that Coors will allow him to use it to best advantage. He's only 23, still young for a pitcher despite being in his fourth pro season. For Chattanooga this year, he walked only 28 batters in 136.1 IP, while allowing 126 hits (only six homeruns) and getting 87 strikeouts. His ERA was low (2.44) courtesy of several unearned runs; before going up to Louisville for two starts, he was allowing 3.3 runs per nine. He's a definite ground-ball pitcher, having gotten almost twice as many groundball outs as flyball outs. He may not be Bert Blyleven, but he can pitch.

As part of the continuing reshuffle of the pitching staff, Karl gets to go crankily go to the bullpen. With Julian Tavarez doing well, and Brian Rose pitching to prove the Red Sox trade was more than just addition by Lansing subtraction, he's basically around to activate Brian Bohanon's sense of job insecurity. More important for the pitching staff is the callup of House. He's already gotten a good amount of play in Baseball America and the Denver papers for his novel delivery and his tremendous velocity. The velocity is what I'd admit nears 100, even if make allowances for the frequent use of the fast gun for scoreboard readings, and he mixes in a pretty good splitter; he's still working on a useful slider. The delivery basically leaves him airborne as he delivers the ball, as he hops off of his front foot while pushing off with the right. Attempts to get him to throw normally have been failures. He says he's been using it for six years without any problems, so let's enjoy it and see what happens before fretting about how unnatural it looks. House could very easily end up being the team's closer before this time next year, or perhaps co-closer with Jose Jimenez if Jimenez isn't returned to the rotation. For all of those fantasy GMs who were suckered by David Lee, this is a better pickup.

Trading Hunter also creates an opportunity for Juan Pierre, another speedy center fielder. The Rox are short on great outfield prospects, although Jody Gerut's looks like he'll deserve some playing time in spring training.


Announced that LHP Ron Mahay has cleared waivers and will report to Calgary. [8/3]

Signed RHP Jack Armstrong to a minor-league contract; outrighted INF-R Mendy Lopez to Calgary. [8/4]


Activated RHP Jay Powell from the DL; optioned RHP Scott Linebrink to New Orleans. [8/5]

Powell's return is to his old role of setup man, except that now its for Octavio Dotel instead of Billy Wagner. Beyond being a much-improved pen on the outfit the Astros carried into the season, its also an interesting group. Dotel and Jason Green, and to a lesser extent Wayne Franklin, all have future roles with the club. Powell's been a big disappointment since coming over from the Marlins, and the other two relievers are two journeymen, Joe Slusarski and Marc Valdes. The decision to discard Russ Johnson just to get somebody like Valdes is still one of the stranger moves the team has made all season, similar to the decision to trade for Yorkis Perez. The failure to build a good bullpen, and try to shop for retreads instead of swipe them, makes for a lesser disaster in the wake of all of the larger stories, but it still sounds a troubling note for the future. After all, the Astros will get used to life in their new ballpark. The magic of the first three years under Larry Dierker are gone, and now the organization is going to have prove that it can learn from its mistakes. That means sorting out what to do with Jeff Bagwell long-term, and then Daryle Ward, and then about the outfield logjam.


Suspended CF-B Carlos Beltran indefinitely for refusing to report to a rehabilitation assignment. [8/3]

How predictable, another Boras-bashfest. I'm just going to be another voice in the choir wondering that if Tony Muser is supposed to be such a great inculcator of discipline and decency and hard work and all of that good stuff, why is it that the Royals get caught picking more nasty little fights with their players than any other team in baseball? Maybe Allard Baird and Muser have watched one Les Steckel motivational video too many. Maybe the Royals need to start focusing on baseball and talent instead of boo-sh.... bushido. Beltran got to work out with the team on Monday, which means somebody in a suit has egg on his face and the team picked a fight to no good end beyond some deserved embarassment. After the stunts pulled with Dee Brown and Mark Quinn this year, the least you say is turnabout is fair play.


Acquired OF-R Bruce Aven from the Pirates for a PTBNL or cash; optioned Aven to Albuquerque. [8/6]

A good pickup for the Dodgers. While Aven's had an absolutely awful season as a pinch-hitter this year (4 for 35), he's got a good track record as a hitter on his career, and should be capable of much better than the .250/.275/.426 he was hitting with the Pirates. He needs more frequent playing time than he was getting from Gene Lamont, or is likely to get in an outfield with Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green in the corners, but I'm willing to bet he's on the roster before the last day of August so that he's eligible for the playoff roster.


Activated PR Terry Jones from the DL. [8/4]

While I won't disagree with the proposition that maybe Milton Bradley needs some more work in the minors, there's something very wrong with a team that's letting Wilton Guerrero play regularly in one outfield corner, and offers up Jones as an alternative. Bad wheels or no, the Expos need to spend as much time evaluating Fernando Seguignol as possible, to see if he has any future with the organization whatsoever. They should already know what Wilton's good for (siblinghood), and they've had too much time to see that Jones has no more value than Brian Hunter. Major league teams really should be in the business of either developing or playing major league players.


Signed OF-L Luis Polonia for the remainder of 2000; designated INF-B Wilson Delgado for assignment. [8/3]

Placed RHP Ramiro Mendoza on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); activated LHP Allen Watson from the DL. [8/4]

Activated RHP Orlando Hernandez from the DL; optioned LHP Randy Choate to Columbus. [8/6]

What has to be frustrating for Red Sox fans is that as much as the Red Sox attempts to help themselves have been uniformly lousy, it isn't like the Yankees are doing that much better. Polonia might end up being the worst outfielder on a postseason roster since Jumpy Fox. Okay, Otis Nixon last year was pretty terrible. While Polonia does have value as a "ball-in-play" desperation pinch-hitter for the Jose Vizcainos or Clay Bellingers of the world, he's still the waterbug voted most likely to get himself squashed on the bases for going one too far, and his defensive value is nil. But with a bunch of baserunners well-regarded for their smarts if not their speed, the Yankees may be the right kind of team to derive some sort of value from an otherwise worthless player. Polonia and Glenallen Hill give the Yankees two pinch-hitters on the bench, neither of whom should play the field, and neither of whom can DH regularly.

Meanwhile, the pitching staff is still closer to being a shambles than it is to getting straightened out. With Mendoza hurt and Grimsley slagged, the Yankees aren't going to get any desperately needed middle relief to support either David Cone's or Doc Gooden's generally short outings. You always have to worry about Jeff Nelson's arm. It may not be enough for the Red Sox or the Blue Jays to capitalize on, but there are reasons to believe this Yankees team will be ripe for an early exit in the playoffs. Their best way to avoid it is going to be Roger Clemens and El Duque going strong into October.

I guess Clay Bellinger gets to stick around instead of Wilson Delgado because he's more likely to pull a Bucky Dent.


Signed DH-R Mike Stanley; optioned INF-R Jose Ortiz to Sacramento. [8/4]

Even smart teams make mistakes. Unlike Ortiz or Frankie Menechino, Stanley can't play a position, and he's hardly been pounding lefties this season. His best years are long gone. As far as pickups go, this is more reminiscent of Brook Jacoby or Kevin Seitzer than Matt Stairs or Jeremy Giambi.


Placed 1B-L Rico Brogna on waivers, losing him to the Red Sox; purchased the contract of SS-B Tomas Perez from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/3]

Activated C-R Mike Lieberthal from the DL; announced SS-B Desi Relaford was claimed on waivers by the Padres, and traded him to them for a PTBNL. [8/4]

Recalled 2B-L Marlon Anderson from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; traded 2B-L Mickey Morandini to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL. [8/6]

Lordy lordy, its starting to resemble a baseball team hereabouts. What's next? Terry Francona dispatched to coach the Washington Wizards? Four months of lumps are worth taking if its what has to be done to get Ron Gant and Rico Brogna out of town. Now the Phillies have Pat Burrell and Travis Lee in place, and they'll be the better for it next year. The only cautionary note is that Ed Wade couldn't help firing a few parting shots after Desi Relaford after cutting him loose, and that's brave talk coming from the man who felt trading for Mickey Morandini was such a good idea only a few months ago.

So now the Phillies will have Scranton's combo on the deuce. Perez is still a slick-fielding shortstop, his early errors aside. Maybe it just seems like he's been around forever, because he's only 26. He was hitting for good power in Scranton (.294/.334/.473), but 16 walks in 77 games isn't anything to be proud of. He's going to have to make up on defense what the Phillies gave away in terms of Relaford's ability to get on base. As for Marlon Anderson, he almost managed to draw a walk for every ten at-bats this year, not bad for someone who only a year ago was bragging about his ability to create runs without taking them. Don't mistake him for a prospect: he's as old as Perez, and no more likely to have a long and successful career.


Activated RHP Rich Loiselle from the DL; designated INF-R Luis Sojo for assignment. [8/3]

Purchased the contract of LHP Dan Serafini from Nashville; optioned RHP Steve Sparks to Nashville. [8/5]

Traded OF-R Bruce Aven to the Dodgers for a PTBNL or cash. [8/6]

Cutting loose Sojo instead of Mike Benjamin is just one of those things that doesn't need to make sense. Maybe we need to just start responding to moves like these with "It's a Bonifay thing, we can't understand." Some utility infielders get multi-year contracts, and some get dumped. Some fourth outfielders get acquired, some get played, some get multi-year contracts. Performance is not used to evaluate who gets what, although we can only speculate what does. One reasonable theory is that its all tied to whoever is furthest removed from knowing Kevin Bacon, although favorite colors and prominent nose hair undoubtedly play important parts as well.


Claimed SS-B Desi Relaford from the Phillies, acquiring him for a PTBNL. [8/4] Optioned SS-B Kevin Nicholson to Las Vegas. [8/5]

Anyone else remember the Pads' Timry Flanster second base platoon from the mid-80s as fondly as I do? Gance Mulliniorg gets a bunch of the "The Platoon in History" headlines, and I suppose Dike Slavalliere gets a few kudos now and again. Well, what might the Pads give us at short next year? Desian Jackford? Davin Jackolson? Kesi Nichoford? Use all three to give us Damesivan Nichafockson?

Okay, enough fun. I've written in the past that some teams might want to experiment with platoons with players not only on the basis of platoon splits, but also in terms of offensive profiles. Jackson and Relaford are similar players: not very good shortstops, useful at getting on base. Relaford's better at it (an OBP in the .360s instead of the .330s), while Jackson's good for a few more steals. They both wish they could grow up to be Steve Jeltz if they set the bar low, and Eddie Joost if they set it high. Nicholson might have a little more pop than either of them (but not enough to deserve the term 'power'), plus he's probably a better shortstop than either. If everything breaks his way, maybe he turns into a better version of David Howard. So what do you do when none of your choices are going to grow up to be good players, let alone great ones? Chances are that the Pads will let all three take their shots at the job next spring. Its usually the sign of a good team if they take everything into consideration long before they get to camp, and just pick a winner instead of pussyfooting around with all of them, but there's no reason to envy the Pads for what they have to pick from. What you hope for is that Kevin Towers doesn't listen when Cam Bonifay comes a-callin' with a spare Pat Meares this winter.


Recalled RHP Cory Lidle from Durham; optioned RHP Travis Harper to Durham. [8/6]

Perhaps its just as well to bring Lidle up and have him in the rotation for the time being. He's had a good nine starts at Durham, posting a 2.52 ERA with six wins, with neat ratios like a 3:1 groundball to flyball ratio or a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Of course, it is only nine starts. But with Ryan Rupe and Tanyon Sturtze lucky to get out of the fifth inning every fifth day, the Devil Fishies will need to take what they can get. They can evaluate their pitching prospects later on, because its worth seeing if they can have as much success with a retread like Lidle as they have with Bryan Rekar. If Lidle does succeed, he'll be another minor asset that Chuck LaMar might use in trade. That's important, because Steve Cox and Aubrey Huff and Rupe are probably the only players on the roster with a chance of playing on a good Tampa Bay team.


Traded OF-L Dave Martinez to the Blue Jays for a PTBNL; purchased the contract of OF-L Pedro Valdes from Oklahoma. [8/4]

Is this a shell game where somebody is supposed to win? The Devil Rays turned Martinez into Mark Guthrie into part of the package that became a useful prospect in Brent Abernathy. We'll have to see what the Cubs and Rangers get, but it looks like Chuck LaMar's the only guy who came out ahead, because he got rid of Martinez and got something useful. What the Rangers really get is their participation in what's turned into a great week or so for some of the best hitters who have usually had to be stranded in the minors, year after year. Now, in one week, guys like Valdes (hitting .331/.408/.570 in Oklahoma City) and Billy McMillon have finally gotten long-deserved callups. That's progress, even if they're getting their chances with teams that are out of the running. But with everything that's going on in the AL East, there are obviously teams that could have used them, and at least they aren't rotting in Triple-A.


Optioned RHP Roy Halladay to Syracuse; added RHP Steve Trachsel to the active roster; acquired OF-L Dave Martinez from the Rangers for a PTBNL; designated OF-L Rob Ducey for assignment. [8/4]

Acquired 2B-L Mickey Morandini from the Phillies for a PTBNL; optioned SS-R Chris Woodward to Syracuse; designated RHP Peter Munro for assignment. [8/6]

Dave Martinez was once a useful player, but at this point, he may be a step down from Rob Ducey, a man so valuable that for a few days of his time, Gord Ash handed the Phillies John Sneed. Martinez may still have some limited value as a defensive replacement, but we're talking about a corner outfielder pushing 36 with no power. If he's supposed to get on base, he'll have to top his current struggle to post a .340 OBP. I'd rather have Pedro Valdes, and it wouldn't have cost me Sneed plus Ducey plus Munro to get him.

But wait, that's the good news! The bad news? Ash dragged in one of the worst players in baseball at a position the Jays desperately need filled, and they gave up yet another player to get him. The amazing thing about this is that it did what I didn't think possible, which is make the decisions to trade Mike Young and Brent Abernathy look even worse. Morandini's range at second is a foggy memory, and that's his strong suit. He was hitting .252/.324/.315, with a .220 Equivalent Average, which after last year's disaster should get him out of the majors instead of the fringes of a divisional race. While he might be better than an injured Homer Bush, getting him isn't anything that's going to help the Jays score runs or prevent them. About the nicest thing you can say is that he might not be so much worse than Mike Lansing, but in the AL East's race to collect as much bad talent as quickly as possible, who's to say getting better is even an objective anymore? If the regular season went beyond September, the Devil Rays could end up finishing second.

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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