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August 30, 2000

Transaction Analysis

August 27-28, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Purchased the contract of LHP Scott Karl from Lake Elsinore (A-ball); optioned LHP Juan Alvarez to Edmonton. [8/28]

For as much as I think Scott Karl is on a downward slope and picking up steam, he's still a better pitcher to have around than Ken Hill or Tim Belcher. Sure, the straight numbers are ugly: a 7.68 ERA, 95 hits and 33 walks allowed in 65 2/3 innings, along with 14 home runs. But take away his especially horrific performance in Coors, and he's...well, he's still a relatively poor pitcher, posting a 5.68 ERA and allowing 44 hits and 18 walks in 38 innings. This season fits in with Karl's pattern of getting slightly worse in each of the last six years.

Still, he did manage to log a pair of quality starts in the four he made on the road, and the Angels don't exactly have a hot prospect ready and waiting to take the fifth spot with Seth Etherton and Jarrod Washburn on the DL and the smoldering wreckage of Brian Cooper being hurriedly brushed off the mound. As fifth starters go, there are worse people to use to fill in the back end of a rotation over the season's final five weeks. With him in hand, the Angels' rotation is currently Scott Schoeneweis, Ramon Ortiz, Matt Wise, Kent Mercker and Karl.

Juan Alvarez did not exactly get a clean shot at the second lefty role behind Mike Holtz. Now that the Angels have signed Bryan Ward, Alvarez may not get another chance in September once rosters expand. Ward could end up being the best left-handed reliever the Angels have, but hopefully Mike Scioscia will use the last month to evaluate all three of them, to give the Angels the freedom of action to avoid reviewing the Buddy Groom/Mike Magnante pickings over the winter.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned UT/C-R Mike Kinkade to Rochester; activated CF-B Eugene Kingsale from the DL and optioned him to Rochester. [8/28]

Mike Kinkade is destined to head off to the Olympics, where he could end up being one of the best power hitters in the exhibition not named Dave Nilsson. For the number of years he's put in, here's hoping that he gets a quality Mike Neill moment or two.

From the Orioles' perspective, I guess the reason they can afford to let him go is that there's very little at stake for them other than trying to stay ahead of the Devil Rays. Kinkade would be useful as a platoon-mate for Chris Richard if the Orioles wanted to fight for every little advantage they can get to wind up with more than 70 wins which, when you think about how crummy the Orioles have been this year, is sort of interesting. This year may have been the dissolution of the Over the Hill Gang, but if next year's team is built around the current crew, 70 wins would be a moral victory.

As an aside, by removing Kinkade from the 40-man roster, they may end up losing him to minor-league free agency over the winter. So if he does something fancy for the Olympic team, he could be a latter-day Lloyd McClendon and pull into a stadium near you with a feel-good story of international glory.

CHICAGO CUBS

Placed OF-R Rondell White on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder); recalled OF-L Roosevelt Brown from Iowa. [8/27]

Well, the better part of picking up Rondell White was going to be having him around next year, anyway. In his absence, the Cubs can finally get around to doing something that should have been done all along, which is play the right Brown, in this case Roosevelt.

There really isn't a good reason for the continued preference for Brant over Rosie. The complaints about Rosie are that he doesn't have game-breaking power for a corner outfielder and that he isn't a good outfielder. Brant wishes his problems stopped there. Rosie has more power than he's given credit for, and was putting the time spent on his banishment in Iowa to good use by hitting .309/.381/.496. He really ought to be playing left field every day for the remainder of the season so that the Cubs get a good sense about whether they'll want to keep him around as their fourth outfielder in 2001.

Assuming Corey Patterson is up for keeps at some point next season, that would make Damon Buford a very expensive, but nonetheless useful, fifth outfielder. Considering White's constant health problems, carrying a talented "platoon" of Rosie and Buford would be a sensible bit of insurance. Rosie has nothing left to prove in the minors, and Buford makes a nice veteran caddy for Patterson.

If the Cubs are serious about building a short-term contender in the hope that the Reds and Astros don't bounce back with a vengeance, they're going to have to do it by collecting (and using) as much offensive talent as possible.

CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/24 (back strain); recalled RHP John Riedling from Louisville. [8/28]

The good news is that the back strain is apparently minor, and Scott Williamson should be back by the end of next week. It's an unfortunate twist on what has been a very successful return to starting for Williamson. Williamson ranks second on the Reds behind the departed Denny Neagle according to Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral Value-Added. As a starter, Williamson has produced six quality starts in nine attempts, while posting a 2.61 ERA. While his strikeout rate has dropped while starting, it's still very respectable: 52 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings, while allowing 41 hits and 25 walks. So while his strikeout rate dropped from over 13 per nine innings pitched to roughly nine per nine, his walk rate has dropped from over seven per nine as a reliever to less than 4.5 per nine. That's still not outstanding, but it is a significant improvement.

Williamson's absence pushes Ron Villone back into the rotation. He responded with a much-needed complete game victory against the Braves on Monday. One of the reasons the Reds needed the complete game was because their pen has been running short lately, with Danny Graves and Larry Luebbers getting overused and Scott Sullivan hurting. Hence the rationale behind calling up John Riedling.

A 22nd-round draft pick out of a Florida high school back in 1994, Riedling has been an interesting project for the Reds organization. He's that rare right-hander who admits to being under six feet tall, but he comes in with good stuff that's been especially nasty on right-handed batters in Louisville: they've managed to hit only .173 off him with two home runs. While posting a 2.20 ERA and good peripherals in 75 innings, Reidling has also managed to post a groundball/flyball ratio of more than two. He's talented enough to be up to stay.

NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of RHP Jerrod Riggan from Binghamton (Double-A); optioned UT-R Joe McEwing to Norfolk. [8/28]

With the Mets having to deal with a few quick exits from their starters lately, added to John Franco's wearing down, Steve Phillips decided to go back to 12 pitchers instead of carrying a third utility man.

The Mets are saying Jarrod Riggan suddenly started throwing into the low 90s this year, after a few years of dusting relative children in A ball as one of the older players in the Sally League in 1998 and the Florida State League in 1999. An eighth-round pick by the Angels in 1996, he had never flashed this much velocity before. Pitching in Double-A for the first time, the newfound heat has showed up in his performance to produce his best season yet: a 1.16 ERA, 60 baserunners in 62 innings, only two home runs allowed and not even showing a platoon split because he's overpowering everybody. He's 26, and I guess I can count that as another example for my half-baked theory that pitchers who make it this far with career-altering surgeries seem to make big improvements around that age, both statistically and in the quality of their pitches. You can take that as an example that relievers really do grow on trees, or that he's only blowing away generally younger players at Double-A like he did at A-ball, or that he's a survivor who's turned the corner professionally, and possibly all of the above.

For Joe McEwing, this is a pretty tough break in that it may end up excluding him from the postseason roster. One of the last things the Mets need is a right-handed pinch-hitter for a predominantly right-handed-hitting lineup, and Super Joe wasn't hitting a lick as a utility man: .227/.246/.386.

The Mets are simply maneuvering towards a decision about who they want to slip onto the roster right before the deadline as the 25th man on the postseason roster. I'd expect a last-minute waivers deal for a reputable pinch-hitter, perhaps someone like Dave Magadan.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled RHP Jon Ratliff from Sacramento; optioned OF-R Eric Byrnes to Sacramento. [8/27]

Okay, now I'm frustrated. It isn't Jon Ratliff's fault, because it's kind of nice to see the man the Cubs picked with the draft choice they got for letting Greg Maddux walk away (or was that for employing Larry Himes for famed charm?). Mostly, my frustration is totally unfair, in that I wish Ryan Christenson would suddenly magically turn into Gary Roenicke and give the A's the lefty-mashing platoon outfielder they really need. Against left-handers, Christenson is hitting a squalid .154/.267/.212. OK, it is only in something like 60 plate appearances, but they've been a pretty crummy 60.

With both Giambis basically out after already losing Olmedo Saenz, the A's need offense wherever they can get it. Eric Byrnes would make for a pretty good option in the outfield right around now, after hitting .301/.395/.471 in Midland and .346/.417/.581 in Sacramento. With so many players out, the A's need to devote roster space to people they can play, and not to someone who's failed in a specialist role and who they will not entrust with more playing time under almost any circumstance. They needed to spend some more playing time on Byrnes instead of playing several men short on offense, something that gets only worse by going to 12 pitchers.

Ratliff has essentially turned the corner from someone who was never going to make it to Tanyon Sturtze territory by adding a knuckle-curve in 1998. In Sacramento, he was pitching very effectively, posting a 3.02 ERA while allowing 94 hits and 30 walks in 104 1/3 innings, while striking out 70. While I'm glad to see him get some service time, he isn't what the A's need at the moment.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Gene Stechschulte to Memphis; recalled C-R Keith McDonald from Memphis. [8/27]

Carlos Hernandez managed to hurt his back taking a walk, but he's expected to be ready to play again by the end of the week. Eli Marrero should also be finishing up his rehab assignment by week's end, which means that Keith McDonald will be going back to Memphis to catch in the PCL playoffs. The Cardinals will almost certainly carry three catchers into the postseason, which will at least give Tony LaRussa the option to pinch-hit for the position twice per game. That ought to mean a plate appearance or two for Rick Ankiel in games he isn't starting. If I had the data handy, it would be worth looking up to see when the last time something like that happened in the playoffs.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Tanyon Sturtze on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled RHP Tony Fiore from Durham. [8/27]

Tanyon Sturtze was just starting a good stretch, having run off three consecutive quality starts before getting hurt over the weekend. When you consider his other two starts for the season were both five-inning, three-run gigs, it looks like he was totally miscast as a reliever and that the Devil Rays really might have something here. Hopefully, the injury is minor, and Sturtze will get an opportunity to add a few starts down the stretch so that he can join Bryan Rekar and Albie Lopez among the Devil Rays' retread rotation successes.

Fiore signed as minor-league free agent, having abandoned the Phillies' organization after years of blood, sweat and tears, starting, relieving, closing, even racking up nine complete games pitching for Spartanburg back in 1994. He's 28, and last year was his first bad year in nine minor-league seasons. For Durham this year, he was turning in another good season as a reliever, allowing 62 hits and 38 walks in 75 innings with 39 strikeouts, while posting a 2.28 ERA.

Fiore has been exceptionally effective against left-handers so far, generating a 5-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio with no home runs allowed, while yielding a .206 batting average.

All of this data is another way of saying that after he's spent this much time pitching professionally, I'm embarassed to admit that I don't really know that much about him. Considering the mayhem that typifies the Phillies' farm system, hats off to a survivor and a genuine organizational soldier making it out alive and finally reaching the big leagues.

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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