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September 8, 2000

Transaction Analysis

September 5-6, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Recalled LHP Juan Alvarez from Edmonton. [9/5]

Juan Alvarez rejoins the mix for a left-handed reliever job in next year's bullpen. While I think the Angels are best off with Mike Holtz and Bryan Ward, if Ward struggles, Alvarez can slip in. While none of this may sound that significant, how they perform over the last few weeks will undoubtedly affect Bill Stoneman's decision about whether to shop for any kind of relief help over the winter.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled RHP Geraldo Guzman and OF-L Jason Conti from Tucson. [9/5]

The Carpenter returns to the less glamorous role of mopping up in Todd Stottlemyre's unfinished starts, and maybe spotting for Brian Anderson now that Anderson is scuffling.

The question of whether Jason Conti or Geraldo Guzman make the team's postseason roster is becoming more and more irrelevant.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Recalled 3B-R Wes Helms and SS-R Mark DeRosa from Richmond; activated RHP Kevin McGlinchy from the DL; purchased the contracts of UT-R Tim Unroe and OF-L Pedro Swann from Richmond. [9/5]

Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Seelbach from Richmond; designated LHP Derrin Ebert for assignment. [9/6]

Fortunately or otherwise, Greenville is going to the playoffs in the Southern League, and fortunately or otherwise, John Schuerholz is giving Greenville the best chance to win by leaving Marcus Giles there. That isn't the best thing for the Braves, but it's a nice gesture to Greenville.

In the meantime, the Braves brought up an interesting group. Pedro Swann was a decent prospect six years ago, but he never caught a break, wandered away from and back to the Braves' organization, and is finally getting his cup of coffee. Tim Unroe is a utility man who can mash a left-hander once in a great while, but this is a team with no problems against left-handed pitching. Mark DeRosa might deserve some consideration for the postseason roster, between Keith Lockhart's need for platooning and Walt Weiss's bad wheels.

Kevin McGlinchy might also earn a shot in the postseason bullpen, considering the Braves' continued shortage of right-handed relievers. Wes Helms lacks the patience to play regularly as a corner infielder, but he managed to overcome two serious arm injuries in 1999 and return to playing third base regularly, and he's something of an organizational favorite.

BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled 1B/OF-B Morgan Burkhart from Pawtucket. [9/5]

Recalled RHP Rich Croushore from Pawtucket. [9/6]

Some understandably unhappy Red Sox fans have tried to point out that at least acquiring Rico Brogna did not really cost the team anything, but to my mind, it did. It cost them plate appearances and a roster spot, both of which are commodities, and both of which would have been a better investment if the Duke had elected to keep Morgan Burkhart around.

It is important to evaluate an acquisition not just in terms of what you gave up, but in terms of what other options a team is foregoing by making the pickup. Picking up Rico Brogna is about as significant as a Dave Stapleton comeback, without the bitter "what was Johnny Mac thinkin'?" aspect to it.

Rich Croushore could be an effective addition to a good bullpen that could use somebody to take some innings off its hands. His scroogie should have the element of surprise going around the AL the first couple of times, and he's worth considering for next year's roster.

CHICAGO CUBS

Recalled 1B-R Julio Zuleta, 2B/OF-R Chad Meyers and IF-B Augie Ojeda from Iowa; purchased the contract of C-R Mike Mahoney from Iowa. [9/5]

An interesting dilemma for the Cubs is to come up with ways to use everybody in this group. Julio Zuleta might make an adequate caretaker at first base for a month or two next season if Hee Seop Choi isn't ready in time for Opening Day. Of course, that's if the Cubs and Mark Grace spend the next couple of months squabbling over his salary expectations versus the Cubs' future needs.

Chad Meyers is never going to earn a roster spot with this team, not as anything more than a utilityman or pinch-runner. He'd have value to teams with bad second-base situations (the Phillies and Blue Jays come to mind), but I doubt the Cubs will let him go. Augie Ojeda really ought to be the team's utility infielder ahead of Jeff Huson or Jose Nieves, but again, Huson is one of Don Baylor's groupies and Nieves is considered a prospect. Mike Mahoney is an exceptional catch-and-throw backup catcher, and if this was a team that had a great offensive catcher who might need a good defensive backup, it would be nice to have him around.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled CF-L McKay Christensen, DH-L Jeff Liefer, 1B/3B-B Greg Norton and RHP Kip Wells from Charlotte. [9/5]

The Sox have so many different directions that they could go with their playoff roster that you could come up with a reason to carry any one of these four, except that the Sox only have two slots open through the disabled list loophole.

Kip Wells is coming off of a good month in Charlotte, and should be given the opportunity to win the fourth rotation slot down the stretch and into the playoffs. The competition should really be between him and Jon Garland, now that Cal Eldred is almost certainly out for the year. Greg Norton should be tossed into a three-sided fight for two backup infielder slots, competing with Craig Wilson and Tony Graffanino. Norton would give the Sox a switch-hitter on the bench, but he's stronger from the left side and the Sox's heavily right-handed lineup can use him.

With Chris Singleton struggling and Jeff Abbott miscast as a center fielder, there's a chance McKay Christensen could make it as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He can look forward to getting a shot at the job in center field next spring if the White Sox don't sign anybody.

Jeff Liefer has the least-likely shot, because while the Sox need a left-handed bat with some sock, they're committed to keeping Harold Baines on the postseason roster, and they can't afford to carry three designated hitters.

CINCINNATI REDS

Purchased the contracts of 1B/LF-L Brooks Kieschnick and RHP Keith Glauber from Louisville. [9/5]

Both Brooks Kieschnick and Keith Glauber have been Quadruple-A guys for a couple of seasons, which means both of them need to treat each cuppajoe as their last chance to open some eyes and get something more than a minor-league contract over the winter.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed RHP Jamie Brown on the 60-day DL (back). [9/5]

COLORADO ROCKIES

Transferred RF-L Larry Walker from the 15- to the 60-day DL; recalled RHP Pete Walker from Colorado Springs; activated RHP Giovanni Carrara and RHP John Thomson from the DL. [9/5]

Not to take anything away from Larry Walker's outspoken desire to play, but giving him the time off is going to be for the best. If the Rockies can get Walker and John Thomson back to full speed by next season, it would provide them with the chance to build two serious strengths.

If Thomson can get anywhere close to where he was in 1997 and 1998, the Rox will not have to spend as much time experimenting with minor league veterans like Giovanni Carrara and Kevin Jarvis in next year's rotation. If Walker recovers well enough to give them 120-130 games next year, they can comfortably watch Jeffrey Hammonds depart as a free agent while they stockpile cash to bring Manny Ramirez into the fold to give them the building blocks of a lineup that would be good in any offensive environment. And don't think that Dan O'Dowd wouldn't relish swiping Ramirez away from his old boss, John Hart.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated RHP Dave Mlicki and 1B-L Hal Morris from the DL; recalled 1B/OF-R Dusty Allen from Toledo; purchased the contract of LHP Kevin Tolar from Toledo; designated RHP Brandon Villafuerte for assignment. [9/5]

Dave Mlicki's return puts the Tigers in an interesting situation as far as their rotation is concerned. Steve Sparks has been outstanding during Mlicki's absence and Willie Blair has been solid as well. Nobody else in the rotation is going anywhere, which puts the Tigers in the situation where they have to acknowledge Mlicki for what he is, a fine fifth or sixth starter, and like the Dodgers before them, peddle him. Or just feel silly about giving him a big contract.

If nothing else, having seven usable starting pitchers should give Randy Smith the kind of flexibility he'll need to shop for an outfielder or to create a package to acquire an even better starting pitcher.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Recalled RHPs Vladimir Nunez and Joe Strong, 2B/SS-R Pablo Ozuna, 1B-L Nate Rolison and C-L Sandy Martinez from Calgary. [9/5]

There are names to remember here. I still think Vlad Nunez should have been kept in middle relief this season, and with the collapse of the Fish pen in the second half, he would have come in handy. Now that the Marlins have Chuck Smith and A.J. Burnett in the rotation, they should be looking at Nunez as a reliever for 2001, prior to letting him eventually slip into the rotation in a slot currently manned by either minor league veteran Reid Cornelius or Jesus Sanchez.

Pablo Ozuna is never going to get past Luis Castillo at second base, which puts the Marlins in the position they should have been in ever since acquiring Ozuna in the Edgar Renteria trade with the Cardinals: evaluating Ozuna as a shortstop. I don't believe Alex Gonzalez is ever going to turn the corner, offensively or defensively, and the Marlins can't afford to turn the job over to Dave Berg and Andy Fox for another long stretch next year. They need to see if Ozuna can play shortstop regularly again, because then they'll have solved their major position problem heading into 2001.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Recalled OF-L Dee Brown and RHP Dan Murray from Omaha. [9/5]

Punitive assignment to instructional league aside, Dee Brown did not have the kind of year at Omaha that I think we all expected. He hit only .269/.324/.491 (while swiping 20 bases in 23 attempts), which means he still hit for power, but lost a significant amount of command at the plate at Triple-A. That isn't the sort of season that's going to make it easier for the Royals to do something tough next spring, like reassigning Carlos Beltran to the minors (returning Johnny Damon to center field) or trading Damon.

Brown is almost as much of a poster child as Damon or Beltran for the Royals' basic offensive problem: they're last in the AL in walks. Other than the veteran left side of the infield, Joe Randa and Rey Sanchez, none of the Royals' regulars are really bad at taking a free pass as much as none of them are great at it. While they have been a good offensive team, they're going to need to help themselves on this front somewhere, and Brown doesn't look like the answer any more than Beltran will be.

Dan Murray is up only because the Mets managed to con Herk Robinson into to taking him for Glendon Rusch last year. He did not have a good season at Omaha and it seems unlikely that he's ever going to pan out, even with the standard "with pitchers, you never know" caveat.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated SS-R Kevin Elster from the DL. [9/5]

Kevin Elster should return to a role he'll get re-signed for if Davey Johnson isn't run out of town: playing around the infield, pasting the occasional left-hander, and musing with Davey over the days when everyone thought Gregg Jefferies was going to have the longer, better career.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Recalled RHP Jeremy Powell, LHP Shawn Spencer and SS-R Tomas De La Rosa from Ottawa. [9/5]

Recalled 1B/OF-L Talmadge Nunnari from Ottawa. [9/6]

No real surprises among the list of call-ups. Talmadge Nunnari is another one of the Expos' less-interesting fetishes, the light-hitting first baseman. In years gone by, they've traded for them (Ryan McGuire, Jon Tucker) and they've developed them (Nunnari, Orestes Marrero). They've also cranked out three guys who can play in the majors at first base, but Brad Fullmer is enjoying life as a Blue Jay, Izzy Alcantara is being asked to play positions he can't for the Red Sox and Fernando Seguignol is beating his head against the organization's obdurate refusal to play men who strike out a lot or who aren't blood relatives of the team's star.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Recalled RHP Darrell Einertson from Columbus and placed him on the 60-day DL (bone chips - elbow); recalled SS/2B-B Alfonso Soriano from Columbus; purchased the contract of LHP Randy Keisler from Columbus. [9/5]

Earlier this season, Alfonso Soriano did not help his case much for next spring's major competition, which will be between Soriano and D'Angelo Jimenez for a semi-regular role in the infield (at Scott Brosius's expense). He will not get much of an opportunity right now, but with Chuck Knoblauch's extension being brought out into the light, Brian Cashman's crew is going to have to decide whether or not to move Derek Jeter to third base if Jimenez wins the fight, or whether the Yankees want to go with a weak defensive infield of Knoblauch at second base, Jeter at shortstop and Soriano at third base.

Randy Keisler got the Ryan Bradley treatment this year, rocketing through the organization in relatively short order after getting drafted out of LSU in the second round of the 1998 draft. Along with Ted Lilly, he gives the Yankees an interesting pair of choices for a fifth starter if David Cone retires and Doc Gooden gets put out to pasture.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed SS-B Kevin Nicholson on the 60-day DL (hand); purchased the contract of IF-R Greg LaRocca from Las Vegas. [9/5]

No sooner did Kevin Nicholson get recalled than he broke his hand in a batting practice accident, knocking him out for the remainder of the season.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Recalled SS-R Chris Woodward and purchased the contract of OF-R Chad Mottola from Syracuse; designated DH-L Kevin Witt for assignment. [9/5]

Kevin Witt seems to have gotten stale in his third go-round at Syracuse, because while he hit for power again (26 home runs), his rates declined to .249/.317/.479. To Gord Ash's credit, nabbing Brad Fullmer has been a big part of the Jays' success this season, but it meant that this would be a wasted year for Witt, and it looks like Witt took it as such.

While I can't tell you and would not try to tell you the extent to which these sorts of situations can affect player performance, that a guy going back to another year in the International League gets tired of it to the point that it shows up in his performance, I'm also not going to pretend that the game between the ears doesn't matter. Witt joins Cal Pickering and Michael Coleman as a pretty good player who seems to have gotten frustrated.

While I expect Witt to get claimed on waivers, if he doesn't, he should walk away from the organization. The Jays are not noted for their loyalty to their organizational soldiers. Witt needs to go to a team that could find a role for him as a part-time first baseman and slugging pinch-hitter.

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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