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September 6, 2000

Transaction Analysis

August 31-September 4, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Recalled 2B-R Justin Baughman and RHP Ben Weber from Edmonton; purchased the contract of LHP Bryan Ward from Edmonton; activated C-B Matt Walbeck from the DL. [9/1]

No real surprises or issues here. Justin Baughman makes for a nifty pinch-runner, Ben Weber is one of a hundred guys who could end up being handy as a middle reliever if things broke his way and Matt Walbeck is nothing if not an adequate backup catcher. The fun thing about Walbeck is that he's probably still waiting for that Damon Berryhill postseason moment to give his career another six-year lease on life. Heck, they're even both ex-Cubs....

The big move is adding Ward. It isn't hard to envision an improved Angels' pen featuring Mike Holtz as a the one-lefty specialist, and Ward working as a left-handed long reliever. As a pair of left-handers to bolster right-handers Troy Percival, Shiggy Hasegawa, Al Levine and Mark Petkovsek, that ends up looking like a very strong pen going into 2001.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Purchased the contract of OF-R Matt Mieske from Tucson, optioned OF-L Jason Conti to Tucson. [8/31]

Activated RHP Todd Stottlemyre and IF-R Danny Klassen from the DL; recalled C-R Rod Barajas from Tucson. [9/1]

A potentially strange wiggle for the Snakes' postseason roster. Matt Mieske arguably gives the Diamondbacks a good righty thumper for the bench, but it seems odd to dispatch Jason Conti to Tucson. Fortunately, he'll still be eligible for the postseason, slipping into a slot for Erubiel Durazo, who's out for the year.

What strikes me as strange about the move is what it means as far as who they seem to intend to use. God help them, but Danny Bautista has been plugged in as the regular right fielder. Add that to Greg Colbrunn taking over at first base, and Alex Cabrera and now Mieske on the bench, and Buck Showalter is stuck with a predominantly right-handed lineup and bench. Craig Counsell is being reserved for a pinch-hitting role, as is David Dellucci, which means that Showalter has fewer tactical options than I'd like to have handy, because the Bautista/Mieske/Dellucci troika in right field is going to need to be burned through on a nightly basis between pinch-hitting assignments and manning right field.

As I said, Conti could and should still be on the postseason roster, if nothing else for his outstanding defense, but a four-man rotation to cover a single lineup slot and a couple of pinch-hit appearances looks like a Duquette-style waste of a couple of roster spots to me.

Todd Stottlemyre's gutty return will get all sorts of hosannas, but I have to wonder about how sensible it is with a playoff spot on the line. Armando Reynoso and Brian Anderson have both had their rough patches, and the bullpen has problems of its own with Matt Mantei and Russ Springer scuffling with injuries. The Snakes are going to need to call up a spare reliever or two as soon as Tucson's season ends.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Recalled UT-R Steve Sisco, OF-L George Lombard and RHP Jason Marquis from Richmond; purchased the contract of C-R Mike Hubbard. [9/1]

Among this group, expectations of playing time need to be low. Mike Hubbard and Steve Sisco are around to finish blowouts, while Jason Marquis has undoubtedly already lost his shot at winding up in the postseason bullpen while the Braves spend their time trying to choose between John Burkett, Gabe Molina and Skippy Belinda for the 11th pitcher's slot.

More interesting should be speculation about what John Schuerholz may end up doing with the 14th player's slot. It might make sense to give it to a utility man like Sisco or even Richie Amaral, and there's always the danger that they might make the space for yet another third catcher in the unfortunate postseason tradition of Joe Ayrault. With Brian Jordan's joints stiffening up as regularly as the Tin Man's, and with Reggie Sanders's fragility, there's a reasonable argument for making space (through the usual shenanigans involving an injured player who's out for the season) for George Lombard as the backup center fielder and potentially as a pinch-runner. I've argued in the past for the need to have Marcus Giles up and playing second base, and I'd argue for the need to carry anybody who can play a decent second base, but I can howl into the wind only so long. Given the Braves' thinking on the matter, keeping Lombard instead of a 12th pitcher or a third catcher makes sense.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated 3B-R Cal Ripken from the DL; recalled CF-L Eugene Kingsale and purchased the contract of RF-L Karim Garcia from Rochester. [9/1]

While I'm not exactly a big believer in Karim Garcia at this point, he is coming off of a tremendous season with Toledo and Rochester (.285/.355/.551 with 28 home runs in less than 120 games). If the alternative is letting Jeff Conine remind everyone that he cannot play right field, then the Orioles are better off with Albert Belle at DH and Garcia in right for the remainder of the season.

Eugene Kingsale is coming off of an injury, but if he can still fly to the gaps, giving him a chance to earn a job-sharing arrangement in center field with Luis Matos for the 2001 Orioles isn't a bad idea.

All of this means effectively benching Delino DeShields, but if Mike Hargrove elects to be a little creative, he can spot DeShields a day or two at second base every week, plus a start at DH, plus a start in left field. While I'd like to see Cal Ripken put in one more season, if he starts hinting that this is it, it wouldn't hurt to start working DeShields out at third base. The results might be ugly, but if this team could live with Wayne Gross, Floyd Rayford or Ray Knight at third base, I think they could endure a year with DeShields there.

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired PH-L Midre Cummings from the Twins for 2B-R Hector De Los Santos; acquired OF-R Dante Bichette from the Reds for RHP Chris Reitsma and LHP John Curtice. [8/31]

Recalled DH-R Izzy Alcantara and LHP Sang Lee from Pawtucket; designated RHP Dan Smith for assignment. [9/1]

Activated RHP Ramon Martinez and LHP Pete Schourek from the DL. [9/2]

Recalled UT-R Donnie Sadler from Pawtucket. [9/4]

As a series of endgame moves, the decisions to add Mike Lansing, Rico Brogna, Ed Sprague and now Fonzie Bichette and Midre Cummings don't look like pennant moves, they look like an attempt to tank the playoff run and move the team to Greenland. I have to believe nobody of sound mind would make these kinds of moves to try to help a team contend, not even if Lou Gorman was still calling the shots. It's as if some kid got pulled away from a low-stakes marbles match and was asked to run the franchise and acquire some players he'd heard of for some guys he'd never heard of. It's hard to believe that there would be a method to this madness. Bichette, Lansing and Brogna are some of the worst regulars in baseball at their positions, and they have been for several years.

We've seen teams try to build to contend for the wild card, and the sort of cheesy aspirations for easy elimination in the playoffs by the real playoff teams that usually entails. But are the Red Sox the first team ever built to gun for first-round playoff upsets, if they manage to get that far? In a five-game playoff, it isn't hard to envision them winning two games courtesy of Pedro Martinez and one game because of a strong bullpen. But just as last year demonstrated, that's a one-way ticket to being a League Championship Series speed bump, and there's something equally pathetic to building a team to go only so far as the best pitcher in the league can take you, and then falling short because of the inexorable mathematics of the playoff schedule.

Don't mistake my tone for any sort of sympathy: I think it's a despicable waste of an opportunity. While the Red Sox were sending away prospects willy-nilly in a number of deals over the last two months, taking on considerable salary in the meantime, the Yankees were taking on salary while adding useful offensive players. The Yankees did not take advantage of any financial superiority in this situation: Rico Brogna costs more than a few wooden nickels, and Lansing and Bichette are both signed to enormous contracts through next season. At the end of the day, the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox hasn't been money, it's been the difference between realizing Jose Canseco is worth a waiver claim versus pretending Dante Bichette has value.

CHICAGO CUBS

Recalled IF-R Jose Nieves from Iowa. [9/1]

Purchased the contract of LHP Osvaldo Mairena from Iowa. [9/3]

The most you can say is that Jose Nieves will get a spot start or two at shortstop and third base, while Osvaldo Mairena should get an opportunity to make Felix Heredia that much more available over the winter in trade. I still believe Heredia will end up being a successful pitcher for somebody somewhere, but Wrigley Field with managers like Don Baylor and Jim Riggleman is one of the tougher assignments any young reliever could take on.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Activated IF-R Craig Wilson from the DL; purchased the contract of RHP Matt Ginter from Birmingham (Double-A); recalled C-R Josh Paul from Charlotte; optioned RHP Rocky Biddle to Birmingham; recalled RHP Chad Bradford from Charlotte. [9/1]

Recalled RHP Kevin Beirne from Charlotte; activated RHP Jon Garland from the DL. [9/4]

One of the more interesting aspects about who would and would not be on the Olympic squad is to notice which teams have gone out of their way to participate and make players and personnel available, and which ones have treated it as something entirely irrelevant to the championship season currently underway. You already know which side of the fence one of baseball's less snuggly franchises is on, while other teams, like the Twins or Pat Gillick's Mariners or the Astros have gone out of their way to help out. Matt Ginter's last-minute call-up seems to have ruffled some Olympic feathers, but Jerry Reinsdorf has a point. Ginter could just as easily be the White Sox's fourth starter in the playoffs as Jon Garland or Kip Wells or Mark Buehrle could, so why let him disappear to Australia?

Craig Wilson probably does not have a shot at slipping onto the postseason roster. While he's a better shortstop than Tony Graffanino, Graffy has played relatively well, and the Sox have usually just taken the hit and kept Jose Valentin in the game against left-handers, anyway.

CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired RHP Chris Reitsma and LHP John Curtice from the Red Sox for OF-R Dante Bichette. [8/31]

Recalled RHP Hector Mercado from Louisville; activated RHP Osvaldo Fernandez from the DL. [9/1]

Recalled 1B-L D.T. Cromer, 3B-R Mike Bell and OF-R Brady Clark from Louisville; purchased the contract of OF-R Kimera Bartee from Louisville; transferred 3B-R Aaron Boone from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]

Transferred C-L Eddie Taubensee from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/4]

While it would still take a collapse of Mauchian proportions to get the Reds back into the NL Central race, trading Fonzie Bichette does nothing to keep them from holding up their end of a miracle. In his absence, they'll get to play a platoon of Michael Tucker and Alex Ochoa, and when you take defense into account, it's hard to argue that the Reds aren't significantly better off right now than they were at the end of July. Add in that they end up receiving a pair of pitching prospects to help replenish one of the things the Reds' system is short on, and that the Reds save the money they would have had to spend on Bichette next year, there's really no way the trade isn't a coup for Jim Bowden.

Usually, a couple of minor-league pitchers for a major-league player can be written off as a dump, because the pitchers can be counted on to get hurt or not work out; after all, they're pitchers. But this is a case where a team got two guys with physical talent for a mediocre DH with an enormous contract, and where that team had two better players on hand to take the mediocrity's place. In those circumstances, the Reds get the cash, the prospects and the ability to apply both to other holes in the organization. There is no downside to this deal for the Reds.

John Curtice is an extremely young left-hander who throws in the mid-90s. I'm not overly concerned that at age 20 he hasn't been all that successful because at that age, few are. Chris Reitsma also throws hard and is relatively young as well.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Recalled RHP Jim Brower, LHP Cameron Cairncross and OF-L Dave Roberts and purchased the contract of RHP Chris Nichting from Buffalo; recalled RHP Jake Westbrook from Buffalo and placed him on the 60-day DL. [9/1]

Activated RHP David Riske from the DL; recalled LHP Tom Martin from Buffalo and SS-R John McDonald from Kinston (A-ball). [9/4]

John Hart looks like he's willing to pull out all the stops to make sure his team ends up in the playoffs. They have 32 players on the active roster, more than just about anybody. They've got spares for their spares in the bullpen, and useful backups in John McDonald and Dave Roberts to get spot starts or fill in at the end of blowouts.

Jim Brower should get another start when the Tribe plays a pair of day-night doubleheaders on September 20 and 21, but with the Tribe's rotation full and with Charles Nagy due back before the month's end, for now he's up for long relief or an emergency start.

The one happy note is to see minor-league survivor Chris Nichting come back for only his second stint in the majors at the age of 34. While it seemed a bit strange to take him away from Buffalo when he's been their closer, it's still great to see him catch a break.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Activated RHPs Kevin Jarvis and Jerry DiPoto from the DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Carlos Mendoza from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of SS-B Elvis Pena from Carolina (Double-A). [9/1]

Add Carlos Mendoza and Elvis Pena as further examples of the Herzog variation in Dan O'Dowd's continuing Coors Field experiment. Mendoza is a combination of patience, contact and speed, and he kept all of that up this year at Colorado Springs by hitting .353/.450/.477, with no home runs and 26 steals in 38 attempts. Assuming you have the kind of team that can get its power from alternate sources, as the Rockies stand to get from Ben Petrick behind the plate, you should be able to carry a player like Juan Pierre or Mendoza in the lineup, but not both of them. Pierre is the prospect and the center fielder, so Mendoza has at best an opportunity to press Todd Hollandsworth for a fourth or fifth outfielder's job.

Elvis Pena has the better opportunity to work his way into a job. Neifi Perez has still not hit well, although he adds a lot of value with his defensive play. Pena brings tremendous speed and solid on-base ability, having hit .300/.399/.382 for Carolina with 48 steals in 61 attempts. His glovework is not in Perez's class, and he is only a year younger than Perez, so it isn't as if he should just be handed Perez's job. Instead, the Rockies might explore splitting the job between the two of them, to try to use each to his strengths. Unfortunately, Perez expects top dollar for multiple years, and expects compensation on the basis of his Coors-inflated production, which puts O'Dowd in a tough position. It's worth the Rockies' while to see if they could potentially hand the job to Pena.

DETROIT TIGERS

Activated 1B-B Tony Clark, C/1B-R Rob Fick and RHP Doug Brocail from the DL; recalled LHP Sean Runyan from Toledo; purchased the contract of OF-R Rod Lindsey from Jacksonville (Double-A); optioned 1B-R Dusty Allen to Toledo. [9/1]

All of this comes a little too late to do much more than add credibility to Randy Smith's finger-pointing for a tenuous thesis that somehow, the Tigers really did have a great shot at the wild card this season if only they hadn't suffered "all of those injuries". They're still convinced they're in it, to the point that they've called up Rod Lindsey to hang around as a pinch-runner. While Doug Brocail and Sean Runyan will help in the pen, overall, these moves don't mean much in terms of helping the Tigers play any better.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Activated SS-R Alex Gonzalez from the DL. [9/1]

Activated RHP Brad Penny from the DL. [9/2]

Recalled UT-B Chris Clapinski from Brevard County (A-ball). [9/4]

The last four weeks will give the Fish the opportunity to evaluate whether or not Brad Penny is 100% and whether Alex Gonzalez should be given the benefit of any doubt before the team enters the offseason looking for a shortstop. Both are important features in Dave Dombrowski's calculations for the offseason. Frankly, I think they're going to have to go looking for a shortstop, and I don't mean looking up good old Benji Gil.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Recalled C-R Raul Chavez and RHP Tony McKnight from New Orleans. [9/2]

Tony Eusebio is out for the season with shoulder surgery, which means that Mitch Meluskey should get at least six starts per week for the season's last month, with Raul Chavez caddying. Tony McKnight will get the opportunity to slip into the fifth slot of the rotation, especially since Brian Powell has done little to earn his keep.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated LHP Paul Spoljaric and CF-B Carlos Beltran from the DL. [9/4]

Paul Spoljaric may finally get his shot at a middle-relief role, and now that Scott Mullen is up, he won't be the team's lone left-handed option in the pen. A good month for him will be the difference between a spring-training NRI with a serious shot at a job and a minor-league contract.

After a lot of noise, Carlos Beltran is back. In his absence, the Royals got plenty of reminders about why it was a bad idea to acquire Todd Dunwoody. Beltran's offensive struggles probably aren't at an end, but he's still going to be the best thing the team has barring a commitment to move Johnny Damon back to his original position.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated PH-L Chris Donnels from the DL; recalled LHP Onan Masaoka and C-R Paul LoDuca from Albuquerque; purchased the contract of RHP Luke Prokopec from San Antonio (Double-A); outrighted UT-B Mike Metcalfe to Albuquerque. [9/1]

Not a bad bunch of callups or additions to the roster, although it doesn't look like it will matter much in the end. Paul LoDuca has staked a reasonable claim to be a nifty major-league backup catcher, and one of this season's most persistent roster mistakes was the failure to simply stick with Onan Masaoka as the team's left-handed reliever. Chris Donnels is a handy pinch-hitter.

The most interesting move is the decision to bring up Luke Prokopec, especially since it pretty clearly means Prokopec will not be pitching for Australia in the Olympics, where he would have been one of the best, if not the best, Aussie starters. He's still got the outstanding curve, change and low-90s assortment that drew enough attention to merit an admittedly premature nomination to our Top 40 Prospects list for 1999, and he's used it to better effect than ever this season. While San Antonio is a good pitcher's park for the Texas League, Prokopec managed to post a 2.45 ERA, allowing only 118 hits in 128 2/3 innings, with an astounding 124 to 23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, or more basically, better than 5 to 1. Prokopec is good enough to immediately enter consideration for the fifth starter's job, and with Darren Dreifort likely to leave as a free agent this winter, that could translate into a full-time job for Prokopec next year.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated UT-R Jose Hernandez from the DL; recalled IF-R Lou Collier from Huntsville (Double-A). [9/1]

We'll have to see what Davey Lopes elects to do with the talent he has on hand now that both Mark Loretta and Jose Hernandez are back at the same time, with Richie Sexson manning first base. Because of Ronnie Belliard's aching back, I sort of expect a job-sharing situation where Belliard, Charlie Hayes and Tyler Houston split the at-bats, while Loretta and/or Hernandez get moved between second base, third base and shortstop.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Acquired 2B/SS-R Hector De Los Santos from the Red Sox for PH-L Midre Cummings; recalled OF-R Brian Buchanan from Salt Lake. [8/31]

Any time you can convert a journeyman meandering from one minor-league contract with a spring-training invite to another into a 20-year-old middle infielder who's shown he can hit a little, it's a good thing. Brian Buchanan may turn into the platoon-mate Jacque Jones needs, which could give next year's Twins a five-man outfield of Matt Lawton, the Jones/Buchanan platoon, defensive replacement Torii Hunter and possibly rookie Bobby Kielty. There's also the chance that Hunter will win the job in center field next spring and the Twins will let Kielty get a little bit more Triple-A experience.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Recalled RHPs Tony Armas Jr. and Guillermo Mota from Ottawa. [9/4]

It was only a few short months ago that Antonio Armas was pitching well enough to deserve consideration for Rookie of the Year ahead of Rick Ankiel. Now that he's back, he should be the third-best starter the Expos have, behind Javier Vazquez and Dustin Hermanson. As for Guillermo Mota, he still has to demonstrate that he can do something with his straight fastball to merit keeping him around.

MEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of PH-L Matt Franco from Norfolk; recalled 1B/LF-R Jorge Toca, C-R Vance Wilson, RHP Eric Cammack and LHP Rich Rodriguez from Norfolk. [9/1]

Recalled LHP Bobby M. Jones and RHP Grant Roberts and purchased the contract of SS-R Jorge Velandia from Norfolk; designated IF-B David Lamb for assignment. [9/4]

The Mets now have 33 players up, giving Bobby Valentine almost enough people that he can pull four double-switches in a game and still have enough bodies for more moves. Unlike the Indians, the Mets do not have a stretch of doubleheaders to worry about, so everyone who is up is up to give Valentine tools for his never-ending quest to turn scorecards into an ink-stained morass while he accumulates every tactical advantage he can. That's for the good, because among its other strengths, this year's Mets team will not have to worry about Valentine's blind spot last year when it came to pinch-hitting for Rey Ordonez in the NLCS.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated 2B-R Chuck Knoblauch and RHP Ramiro Mendoza from the DL; recalled OF-R Ryan Thompson and RHP Craig Dingman from Columbus. [9/1]

Recalled RHP Jay Tessmer from Columbus. [9/2]

The major problem for the Yankees at the moment is trying to determine if Chuck Knoblauch belongs on the playoff roster. If he cannot play second base, he'd only be around to pinch-run or steal a few DH at-bats away from a better offensive player, either Glenallen Hill or Jose Canseco. In an offense already saddled with Tino Martinez in an everyday role, that's a potential problem.

There has already been plenty of commentary about how the Yankees will have to put Ryan Thompson on the postseason roster, with it coming at the expense of Jose Canseco being bandied about for gratuitous effect. Add in Clay Bellinger's unconvincing impersonation of a major-league center fielder and Bernie Williams's sudden case of the owies, and you can admit that there is a problem, but neither Thompson or Luis Polonia represent viable alternatives. In all of their roster shuffling, the mistake that the Yankees made was in not going to the glove tree and giving it a shake. Instead, they've wasted spots on the 40-man roster for Polonia as well as Bellinger.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled C-R A.J. Hinch and 1B-L Mario Valdez from Sacramento; activated RHP T.J. Mathews from the DL. [9/1]

Recalled LHP Todd Belitz from Sacramento. [9/2]

The arrivals of A.J. Hinch, Mario Valdez and Todd Belitz are each worthwhile patches to season-long problems. With Ramon Hernandez wearing down behind the plate, the A's need Hinch, especially as it looks like Sal Fasano serves no useful purpose beyond his old experiences of working with Kevin Appier in the Royals' organization.

With both Giambis nicked up, John Jaha gone for the year and Mike Stanley playing far too often, the A's needed a good defensive first baseman who can hit when given the opportunity. Valdez should be given every opportunity to platoon with Stanley from here on out.

Lastly, Todd Belitz's arrival after coming over in the Jesus Colome/Jim Mecir trade highlights the Mike Magnante disaster and the club's subsequent search for a useful left-handed reliever.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Recalled RHP Matt Skrmetta and 1B/OF-L Alex Hernandez from Nashville. [9/1]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled OF-B Thomas Howard from Memphis; optioned C-R Keith McDonald to Memphis; recalled SS-B Jason Woolf from Arkansas and placed him on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); activated 1B/3B-R Eduardo Perez and C-R Eli Marrero from the DL. [9/1]

Activated RHP Andy Benes from the DL. [9/3]

Recalled RHP Gene Stechschulte from Memphis; recalled OF-R Luis Saturria from Arkansas (Double-A). [9/4]

Of all of the teams stuck with the task of putting together a playoff roster, the Cardinals may have some of the hardest decisions to work out of any of them. Assuming Mark McGwire comes off of the DL, they should be set as far as which 14 position players are most likely to end up on the roster: the regulars, including McGwire and Will Clark, plus Placido Polanco, Craig Paquette, Shawon Dunston, Eric Davis and Carlos Hernandez. Hernandez is part of the problem, in that I think it is very likely the Cardinals will end up having to carry three catchers into the postseason, which would mean substituting Eli Marrero for either Paquette or Dunston. If Tony LaRussa is flexible enough to count Rick Ankiel as a pinch-hitter, he'll have a little more space with which to cram in that third catcher and be able to pinch-hit for two of them within a game.

It is nice to see that the Cardinals feel comfortable enough about their lead that they're going to let Andy Benes make a couple of relief appearances before giving him some tuneup starts prior to the playoffs. That only highlights what will be another tough decision for LaRussa: his playoff rotation. In years gone by, LaRussa went with his best pitchers and left regular-season accomplishments out of it. Remember Storm Davis's whine in 1989?

Darryl Kile and Rick Ankiel are the easy choices, and you would think that Garrett Stephenson has earned a slot. That means picking between Pat Hentgen and Andy Benes for a possible start in the first round, and only one guaranteed start in both of the subsequent rounds. Expect some crankiness on this issue.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Recalled RHP Will Cunnane from Las Vegas; activated C-B Ben Davis from the DL. [9/1]

Purchased the contract of 1B/3B-R Ed Sprague from Rancho Cucamonga (A-ball); transferred RHP Stan Spencer from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/3]

Recalled LHP Dave Maurer and RHP Tom Davey from Las Vegas. [9/4]

The Padres have more than their share of problems, but it still strikes me as strange that a bad team could not find time or the way to use Will Cunnane more this season. In part, he's being punished for Kevin Towers's fascination with certain projects--Todd Erdos comes to mind--and with the Padres' season-long fiddling with retreads in the bullpen. It's similar to the shenanigan of bringing back Ed Sprague: sure it's funny and makes the Duke look like a goof, but what does it accomplish?

The Padres are the definition of an existential crisis: there is no answer to the question of why do they exist or what are they trying to do. They're simply here, like a stealth bomber or a teacher's union. They don't accomplish any positive goals directly related to their existence, they're just an excuse to employ people.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Claimed C-R Scott Servais off of waivers from the Rockies. [8/31]

Recalled RHP Miguel Del Toro, 3B-R Pedro Feliz and 1B-L Damon Minor from Fresno; purchased the contract of SS-B Juan Melo and OF-R Terrell Lowery from Fresno; purchased the contract of RHP Ryan Vogelsong from Shreveport (Double-A); signed RHP Robb Nen to a four-year contract extension. [9/1]

Some useful spare parts for the stretch drive here. And Scott Servais.

Miguel Del Toro should get a few long relief appearances, sparing the Giants' bullpen from any unnecessary work. Although the pen has been a weakness for most of the season, it isn't hard to envision how it could end up being an asset. Mark Gardner and Joe Nathan will both be in the pen for the playoffs, and Alan Embree is talented.

Pedro Feliz has managed to slip beneath the radar as a prospect because he's a hacker. He's coming off of a good-looking season at Fresno (.298/.337/.571, with 33 home runs), but keep in mind that Fresno is a great hitters' park. Nonetheless, I think Feliz has his uses. He's a pretty good third baseman, and he could turn into a useful alternative to Bill Mueller at third base, replacing Russ Davis on the roster, where they end up splitting the playing time depending on the Giants' needs on a game-to-game basis.

While I've had my complaints about Dusty Baker in the past, and still have them now, he has done a good job of creating playing time and effective roles for Armando Rios, Felipe Crespo and Calvin Murray. It isn't hard to see him being able to do the same with Feliz.

Giving Robb Nen the largest contract of any closer ever is an interesting way to employ the dividends reaped by signing Kirk Rueter to an appropriate contract. I'm not sold on the wisdom of it. Nen has been very effective this year, but he's also much less durable. On a certain level, I expect him to never match his tremendous 1998 in terms of combining effectiveness and workload. While I expect that he'll pitch over the life of the contract, and while I am not advancing the claim that this is a Duane Ward or Bryan Harvey or even a Dave Righetti situation, committing this much money to a closer when the Giants are going to have to do some major retooling within those four years strikes me as a poor commitment of financial resources.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled UT-R Charles Gipson and RHP Kevin Hodges from Tacoma; activated RHP Frank Rodriguez and OF-R Jay Buhner from the DL; purchased the contract of 1B/OF-R Brian Lesher from Tacoma. [9/1]

Jay Buhner's return from the DL forces Al Martin and Rickey Henderson into a three-sided job-sharing arrangement in the outfield corners, which is fine in that each player has a couple of discrete skills, and Buhner and Henderson are always going to have problems with turf or day games after night games.

The interesting decision is the callup of Brian Lesher. John Olerud has been an OBP machine for the Mariners for most of the season, but he has also been a weakness in the lineup against left-handers (.231/.354/.306 so far). Lesher might need to be squeezed onto the postseason roster in the Tom Lampkin slot, just to give the Mariners some sort of pinch-hitting alternative to letting Olerud flail against lefties in the postseason. After hitting .288/.377/.521 for Tacoma, Lesher should get a few starts down the stretch to see if he can earn that sort of consideration in the Mariners' postseason plans.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated 3B-R Damian Rolls from the DL; recalled OF-R Kenny Kelly from Orlando (Double-A); recalled SS-R Jace Brewer from Charleston (A-ball); purchased the contract of LHP Trevor Enders from Durham; outrighted RHP Billy Taylor to Durham. [9/1]

Activated 3B-R Vinny Castilla from the DL; recalled RHPs Travis Harper and Dan Wheeler from Durham. [9/4]

Kenny Kelly's callup was required by contract, which along with the return of Vinny Castilla sort of tells you what you need to know about the Devil Rays' thinking. Kelly hit .252/.338/.337 in Orlando, which is to say he isn't about to endanger the future of Randy Winn, let alone Jason Tyner.

The one happy thing the D-Rays can look forward to is Don Baylor's open campaign to get Castilla into a Cubs uniform for 2001, which should make Chuck LaMar's life relatively easy as far as being able to retain the upgrade that a platoon of Aubrey Huff and Russ Johnson represents.

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated LHP Darren Oliver from the DL; recalled RHP Jonathan Johnson from Oklahoma. [9/1]

I've said it before, so I'll be brief: Darren Oliver's contract is the turkey that Doug Melvin should have left in the bush. Going into next season, he might recover enough ground to be a solid fifth starter, and as long as Justin Thompson's health is an issue, he makes for a useful insurance policy, but the expectations were unreasonably higher than that.

Former top draft pick (first round 1995 out of Florida State) Jonathan Johnson has to earn a place in the franchise's future plans right now if he wants to avoid getting bumped off of the 40-man roster.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Transferred 2B-R Homer Bush from the 15- to the 60-day DL; activated CF-L DeWayne Wise from the DL; recalled CF-R Vernon Wells from Syracuse. [9/1]

Although Vernon Wells has not had the kind of season at Syracuse that prospect mavens would have liked to see (.244/.314/.433 with 23 steals in 27 attempts), I'd still give strong consideration for keeping him around as the fourth man in the outfield rotation next year. As much as I like Jose Cruz Jr., he will never have Wells's range in center field, and Shannon Stewart is starting to look like the kind of player who needs to miss 20 or 30 games a season. Working Wells into a rotation so that he can get 300 plate appearances next season would be an improvement on whatever they were supposed to get from Marty Cordova.

Homer Bush's season is over, which leaves the Blue Jays with two old men at second base who can't really turn the deuce all that well. Among this team's litany of problems, it isn't a major reason for why they won't be in the playoffs, but it's another thing to regret.

DeWayne Wise is one Rule 5 draft pick who isn't going to get away. He'll get another month in the majors, after which he can look forward to Double-A next year.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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