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August 23, 2000

Transaction Analysis

August 20-21, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed 1B-L Erubiel Durazo on the 15-day DL (sore wrist); recalled 1B/OF-R Alex Cabrera from Tucson. [8/20]

Erubiel Durazo is considering having surgery on his wrist, which would end his season on the spot. While that would be a tough loss when you consider that the Snakes would then have only Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez as left-handed offensive threats, also keep in mind that the lineup's real problem is the absence of a good right-handed slugger. Waiting for Matt Williams and Jay Bell to repeat their 1999 seasons is a bit too sunny when you consider they're both 34.

What if a solid partial answer to this need has been staring them in the face all along, in the form of Greg Colbrunn? After all, the guy is hitting .339/.442/.573 in more than 200 plate appearances, which makes him pretty tough to ignore.

Colbrunn is somebody who you can't help but root for. At 21, he was a good-hitting catcher in the Expos chain who'd shown he could hit in Double-A, but that was before arm injuries ended his catching days, and he missed all of 1991. Since then, he's usually been put into pinch-hitting roles, which is a hard way to try to get anyone's attention or put together a good season. He's never been patient enough as a hitter, but you could argue that as a pinch-hitter, he wasn't being put into roles in which he could settle.

I'd almost buy the argument that Colbrunn would make a great regular, until you remember that in his two seasons in that role with the Marlins, he didn't hit that well for a regular first baseman. He may not be a catcher any more, but he wasn't a patient hitter in the minors either, so there's a pretty good case that as a hitter, Colbrunn turned into exactly the player he was supposed to be. That's positional differences in a nutshell: if Colbrunn had hit like Colbrunn as a catcher, he'd be a very wealthy guy instead of a journeyman pinch-hitter. While it's nice to see him flirting with the spotlight, it's more likely that he'll settle back down towards his career rates with more playing time.

Anyone else think it's sort of cool that minor-league wonder Alex Cabrera has four hits in 13 major-league at-bats against left-handers, all of them home runs? While I don't expect Cabrera to be a world-beater any more than Colbrunn, having two first basemen (or even three if Durazo was healthy) who are good enough to hit but not so good that you wouldn't take them out on a double-switch could be a tactical advantage if Buck Showalter wanted to get funky.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Optioned UT-R Steve Sisco to Richmond; recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Richmond. [8/21]

Here it is folks, the start of the two-step to create a roster spot for George Lombard. Skippy Belinda has been awful in his couple of weeks with the Braves, allowing ten runs in seven innings, while Scott Kamieniecki has been what you'd expect, an adequate middle reliever.

The Braves are still casting about to find replacements for Rudy Seanez and Kevin McGlinchy, which is why Gabe Molina is up for a spot check. If he has a good week or two, he'd be giving himself a slim chance at a playoff roster spot. While John Burkett is probably a lock for the postseason roster as a mop-up man, the Braves would be better off finding someone a little less hittable for the 11th pitcher's slot. That is, if they don't want to resurrect memories of El Presidente's unfortunate playoff gig with the Braves. The Braves could carry Kevin McGlinchy (assuming he successfully completes his rehab assignment), Molina and Lombard, but it would come at the expense of Belinda and Burkett. We'll have to see if John Schuerholz cares, or if he simply hands over those roster spots to those guys longest of tooth and grayest of hair.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned 3B-R Ryan Minor to Rochester; recalled UT-R Mike Kinkade from Rochester. [8/21]

Don't jump to the conclusion that the Orioles are going back to the old men. While it seems like Mike Kinkade has been around forever, and while some people still accuse Ryan Minor of being a prospect instead of another Josh Booty, Kinkade is 27 and Minor is 26. Both of them are in their prime right now, and while Minor has yet to look like a good hitter above A ball, Kinkade has generally shown that he's nothing if not a hitter. After earning an berth in the Double-A All-Star Game this year, he's continued to paste the ball at Rochester.

Unfortunately, Kinkade still doesn't really have a position. He had his famed 60-error season at El Paso as a third baseman in 1997, which convinced the Mets to have him return to his college position, catcher. He's not a great catcher, either. While he won't be the next Geronimo Berroa, he could still help a team in a part-time role.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed RF-L Larry Walker on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/20 (elbow); recalled C-B Adam Melhuse from Colorado Springs. [8/21]

Nothing's at stake for the Rockies at this point, so while Larry Walker's desire to play is commendable, if it leads to an even more complicated elbow surgery it's better to pull the plug on his season right now.

While Walker's Equivalent Average is down to .264, it is worthwhile to consider his home/road splits for more than their usual Planet Coors atmospherics. At home, he's hitting .359/.446/.615, which sounds great, except you should keep in mind that Walker managed to hit .461 and slug .879 at home last year. On the road, he's managed all of two home runs and rates of .259/.371/.399. Maybe this is just wishcasting, but I look at that home/road split and believe that it reflects not that Walker is getting old so much as that he's been playing hurt, so badly hurt that it seriously affects his performance. That distinction won't mean much if Walker can't bounce back, but here's hoping he can be a central player in Dan O'Dowd's machinations.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Optioned RHP Joe Mays to Salt Lake; recalled RHP Jack Cressend from Salt Lake. [8/21]

Joe Mays wasn't pitching well, but he also wasn't pitching that badly. Sure, a 5.94 ERA and a 6-14 record look pretty ugly, but he's the fourth or fifth starter on one of baseball's weakest offensive teams. Even with those ugly-looking numbers, he's managed eight quality starts, nine if you count the one against Tampa Bay on April 6 in which Tom Kelly let him take his lumps in the seventh inning.

This is a case in which atmospherics, like Kelly's apparent frustration with the high-strung Mays and, especially, with his three-game losing streak that culminated in a first-inning hook against the Devil Rays, are going to generate more heat than light. While I still like Mays's future and am willing to cut him some slack, it's also pretty clear that he wasn't pitching well enough to expect any guarantees.

The important factor here is that the Twins do have a pair of worthwhile young starters to look at in J.C. Romero and Matt Kinney, and it's better to get a sense right now, in games that mean something, of whether they can win jobs next spring, rather than leave it entirely up to the vagaries of six weeks in camp. As long as the Twins don't discard Mays, they have a pretty good opportunity to wind up next year with a six-deep rotation that's worth something.

Jack Cressend was a waiver-wire gift from the Red Sox last year. Not an August waiver-trade pickup, but an outright snag courtesy of one of the Duke's weekly reshuffling sessions, and something to Terry Ryan's credit. Cressend lacks outstanding stuff, but he has command of four pitches, and even in a tough pitcher's environment like Salt Lake, he's managed to continue to generate twice as many groundouts as flyouts. That's translated into a good season as a long reliever: a 3.44 ERA, 87 hits and 39 walks in 86 1/3 innings, with 87 strikeouts. All told, he gets about four times as many outs by strikeout and groundballs as by flyballs, which is why he's allowed only three home runs this year, none by left-handed hitters. He won't be a star, but he could easily turn into a Mark Petkovsek-caliber middle reliever.

The Twins have been checking out several of their starters for the role of long man: Jay Ryan blew his shot with 16 runs in 17 1/3 relief innings, Mike Lincoln blew out his arm and Mays didn't stick. Cressend could end up passing Hector Carrasco before the end of the year.

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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