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September 1, 2000

Transaction Analysis

August 29-30, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released 2B-R Trent Durrington. [8/29]

Claimed RHP Ben Weber off of waivers from the Giants, and assigned him to Edmonton. [8/30]

Trent Durrington should be headed for his home country to help represent Australia in the Olympics, a departure that created a free spot on the Angels' 40-man roster. I don't know if Ben Weber, the Goggled One, is really who I would have spent that spot on, considering he'll invariably be pushed back off again once the Angels have to start adding 1998 draftees to the roster after the season. Weber is bound for minor-league free agency, something he's used to.

We should next see Durrington leading off in front of Dave Nilsson for the Killer Koalas. Given the wildly differing levels of quality among the Olympic teams, I wouldn't be surprised if Durrington's blazing speed ended up providing some of the more exciting moments in the baseball portion of the Olympics.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Purchased the contract of RHP Darren Holmes from Tucson; optioned RHP Geraldo Guzman to Tucson. [8/30]

A strange, strange, strange move. Darren Holmes has been spectacularly ineffective this season with three different teams, and the only thing you can say in defense of this move is that the Snakes have to pay his salary anyway, because they're on the hook for the dough after having originally released him.

While Geraldo "the Carpenter" Guzman has struggled since his great pair of starts in the first two weeks of July, he's flashed a very good fastball all along. If you asked me who I'd rather have as the 11th pitcher on a staff, I'd pick Guzman in a second. Because Tucson's season won't last much longer, Guzman will be back before ten days are up, so he may not even lose his rotation slot, depending on whether or not Todd Stottlemyre actually pitches.

I'm afraid that one of the reasons the Snakes are making this move is to get Holmes onto the active roster for playoff eligibility, just in case Stottlemyre doesn't heal or Russ Springer's back forces him out of action. It's simply amazing that Joe Garagiola Jr. and Buck Showalter would set aside performance to such an extent that they give Holmes this kind of a break, or that the Snakes are so hard up that they may end up having to use him. Hopefully, either Guzman or Johnny Ruffin or even Springer gets that last staff spot first.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled C-R Fernando Lunar from Bowie (Double-A). [8/29]

Optioned LHP John Parrish to Rochester; activated RHP Alan Mills from the DL. [8/30]

John Parrish struggled terribly in his last two starts, but demoting him seems a bit premature. His last two thrashings came at the hands of two teams he was facing for the second time, and that has to be considered a learning experience, not a failure. A major-league coaching staff should theoretically be able to help a pitcher learn from a bad outing, shouldn't it? The Orioles have nothing to gain from keeping somebody like Pat Rapp in the rotation, but they are noisily announcing how sensible they are about rebuilding.

Maybe it's the proximity of the nation's capital, but there's a big difference between spinning a rebuilding program and actually building one. If they really want to be sensible about it, they shouldn't push a rookie aside after his first rough stretch. To demote Parrish before roster expansion, just to squeeze an extra pair of days out of a journeyman like Alan Mills, is about as plausible as a Bill Clinton peace plan.

CHICAGO CUBS

Optioned 1B/OF-L Brant Brown to Iowa; purchased the contract of 1B/OF-L Ross Gload from Iowa. [8/30]

Ross Gload had been labelled underpowered in previous seasons, so all he did this year between Double-A Portland (before he was traded to the Cubs in the Henry Rodriguez deal) and Triple-A Iowa was hit .309/.356/.586 with 74 extra base hits (38 doubles, six triples and 30 home runs). At 24 and with only A-ball experience before this season, he needed this kind of breakthrough. It will definitely be worth the Cubs' while to see if Gload can thunder around in left field well enough to give Roosevelt Brown a run for his playing time.

Between the two of them, the Cubs should have somebody on the roster who will be a major upgrade from Brant Brown. Brown has hit an all-time low: .173/.237/.309 with a .185 Equivalent Average. Now while Brown was never going to be as much of a prospect as Ed Lynch made him out to be, this level of production is well below what Brown can do. Maybe there's something to the Curse of the Dropped Ball from 1998, but more likely, Brown is pressing in a pinch-hitting, spare-part role that is never easy for anybody. While I like Rosie Brown and Gload for their ability to out-hit Brant Brown when they're all at their relative best, if they don't get starts on a semi-regular basis, they'll struggle too.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Gave RHP Ken Hill his unconditional release. [8/30]

As reader Tom Bell has pointed out, Ron Schueler did just enough to satisfy Frank Thomas. He brought in a veteran starter, giving Ken Hill a lone start to demonstrate how much worse he was than the maligned rookie starters, and then cut Hill loose before he could do any more damage.

I think it's still one start too many. Why not have Thomas watch tape on Hill? Why not point out how crappy Hill has pitched for the last couple of seasons? Why not have some interns draft a multi-media presentation for Thomas's edification? We're talking about a major-league ballgame here. Tossing it aside in a pennant race to expose one player's ignorance is the kind of largesse I would not take the time to demonstrate.

As for the hard-luck Hill, he's taking his arthritic elbow home for the season. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in either the Red Sox or Expos training camps as a NRI next spring, and I wish him well on his comeback.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Recalled 3B/RF-L Russell Branyan from Buffalo; optioned SS-R John McDonald to Kinston (A-ball). [8/30]

Just when the Rich family might have been thinking that they'd luck into having Russ Branyan for the International League pennant push, John Hart reminds them that it's just a pipe dream. The New Prophet of the Three True Outcomes should be given every opportunity to play, especially when the alternatives include a mostly harmless Wil Cordero. Call this just another reason why I believe the Tribe is going to wind up winning the AL wild card.

Jason McDonald will be back before ten days, courtesy of the end of the Carolina League's regular season. He should even be available for the postseason roster, undoubtedly in the spots "committed" to Jaret Wright or David Riske, both of whom are out for the season with injuries.

The alternative, and it's a real danger, is that the Indians will carry 12 pitchers into the postseason. The choice is between being afraid of one turned ankle or hard slide into knocking Omar Vizquel out for a game or two, or being able to have two multi-reliever innings per game.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Activated OF-L Cliff Floyd from the DL; optioned UT-B Chris Clapinski to Brevard County (A-ball). [8/29]

Oh, the agony! Should the Marlins put their best offensive outfield out there, with Cliff Floyd in one corner, Henry Rodriguez in the other and Mark Kotsay and Preston Wilson splitting time in center field, at the expense of Wilson's shot at the strikeout record? I wonder if Bobby Bonds is as attached to his place in history as Brian Kingman is to his.

Fortunately, I suspect the Fish won't make this that much of an issue, not out of concern for Wilson's place in history so much as how extremely unhappy the pitching staff would be with a decision to bag their outfield defense. Having Floyd back, even if only for three or four starts per week, will help the Marlins' offense just enough to let them reach 80 wins this year.

Chris Clapinski takes the paper-only transaction, as he'll stay with the club and be "back" as soon as rosters expand and the Florida State League's season comes to an end.

Has anyone else noticed what a fine bench the Marlins have put together in the last couple of months? Kevin Millar could be starting for some teamsRed Sox. Clapinski and Andy Fox make for a fine pair of seven-position utilitymen who can hit a little and Mark Smith has never been anything but a solid professional hitter. Toss in Mike Redmond as the backup catcher, and that's one of the best benches in baseball.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Released RHP Jerry Spradlin; recalled LHP Scott Mullen from Omaha. [8/30]

Maybe Jerry Spradlin is taking the fall because he did not retaliate for a recent beaning of Mike Sweeney. Maybe he's going away because of the 27 runs he's allowed in his 22 innings since the All-Star Break. Maybe it's something else. Nevertheless, it seems a bit silly to axe him now and eat the last month of his contract when the Royals' pen only has Ricky Bottalico and Kris Wilson throwing at all well.

Spradlin had given the Royals a great first half, posting a 3.40 ERA, before his current grisly streak raised it to 5.52. While the need for a left-handed reliever has been there all season, it seems strange to bring one up two days before the rosters expand. If Chris Fussell doesn't have an option, why not dangle Scott Pose on waivers again? It isn't like he's going to be claimed.

Scott Mullen comes up with one impressive-looking split to his credit: in Omaha, left-handed hitters were 0-for-23 with a walk. Of course, he wasn't quite as dominant against them in Double-A (overall, left-handed batters have hit .211/.302/.316), so it isn't like we're staring at the second coming of Rick Honeycutt or something. Mullen has the stuff that helped get him out of minor-league rotations and into minor-league bullpens: an adequate fastball, plus a slider and change for show. Moved to the pen this year, he posted a 3.16 ERA between Wichita and Omaha, allowing 80 hits in 94 innings with 34 walks and 82 strikeouts. Tim Byrdak's career outlook just got noticeably more grim.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Acquired 2B-R Marcos Scutaro from the Indians as the PTBNL in the Richie Sexson trade. [8/30]

Marcos Scutaro is a very solid prospect for a throw-in, and the Bisons should be ticked to lose a good on-base threat as they go into the International League playoffs. Scutaro comes over having hit .275/.373/.381 with Buffalo as a 24-year-old. He's a solid defensive player, so he gives the Brewers yet another option if they wanted to jumble around their infield next year and play Ron Belliard at second base, shortstop or third base, Mark Loretta at shortstop or third and Jose Hernandez in center field.

While I doubt things will get that confused, keep in mind Davey Lopes came up as an outfielder in a Dodgers organization that liked playing musical chairs with people and positions, and it ended up affecting Lopes's entire career, for good and for bad. Sometimes managers have a hard time avoiding the patterns that their careers followed.

In terms of competition within the organization, if the Brewers have a choice between Scutaro and Santiago Perez for who should be handed some playing time, they should pick Scutaro.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Activated C-R Chad Moeller from the DL; optioned C-R Danny Ardoin to Salt Lake. [8/30]

Love him or hate him, Tom Kelly has his idiosyncracies, and this is one of them. Chad Moeller isn't a better bat or glove than Danny Ardoin, but he's been handed a reputation for being a "handler" of pitchers. So Moeller gets a major-league job and Ardoin gets to catch for the Buzz in the PCL playoffs. The Buzz could use the help, considering that most of Phil Roof's celebrated happy skulkers are already gone: Doug Mientkiewicz is headed for Australia, Todd Walker is a Rockie and Javy Valentin's knee is shot, leaving Chad Allen as the last bitter, mediocre ex-Twin.

NEW YORK METS

Acquired SS-R Jorge Velandia from the Athletics for OF-R Nelson Cruz; assigned Velandia to Norfolk; purchased the contract of OF-L Timoniel Perez from Norfolk; optioned RHP Jerrod Riggan to Binghamton (Double-A). [8/30]

If you were pining for the Punchless One, take heart! You can all always flog the bushes and get something just as good at shortstop, and the find will hit better assuming he still has both eyes.

Jorge Velandia is another glovely fielder with a great arm. Because we aren't yet to that happy future when ESPN4 will give us nightly Web Gems from the PCL, Velandia doesn't get the kind of air time his defense deserves. While he has an earned reputation as a light hitter, Velandia is only 24 and did manage to hit .278/.359/.440 for Sacramento this year. If something terrible happened to Mike Bordick, the Mets would be able to call on Velandia to be Kurt Abbott's defensive replacement; they wouldn't have shortstop defense as an excuse for falling short. It's a good pickup.

It's also a good move to call up Timoniel Perez as the left-handed pinch-hitter they ought to have. Another one of their Japanese Leagues imports, Perez hit .352/.388/.512 at Norfolk this season, showing a willingness to hack at everything and get a high percentage of it into play. That doesn't make him a great hitter, but it does make him somebody with some situational uses.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed 3B-R Aramis Ramirez on the 15-day DL (shoulder, knee); recalled 2B/SS-B Abraham Nunez from Nashville. [8/29]

What's next, a lightning strike? Nothing seems to break Aramis Ramirez's way, and while he's hoping to play again before the season ends, the Bucs can't do much more than hope that one of their few prospects can be ready for next year.

It only gets worse, in that the Pirates don't have much in the way of internal alternatives. Normally, you'd think the worst team in baseball would be able to take advantage of their largest remaining asset, major-league playing time, to evaluate players with futures in the organization. Unfortunately, the Pirates don't have even that advantage. They just traded Jarrod Patterson, and Kevin Haverbusch probably isn't going to be a third baseman. So they're left with moving Enrique Wilson to third bae and playing Pat Meares, which is only good for reminding them that Cam Bonifay had no idea what he was doing when he gave Meares a multi-year contract.

I guess my point of view is that now that the season's in the tank, and Wilson is going to be the team's shortstop for the future, so why not make the crummy fill-in play out of position? Why not call up Jack Wilson, now that they've stolen him from the Cardinals? That would at least highlight one of the good moves Bonifay has made, and give the Bucs a Wilson and Wilson left side of the infield, which gets better if they call up catcher Craig Wilson, trade for Preston Wilson, make Glenn Wilson and Mookie Wilson coaches, and ask Brian Giles to change his name to Wilson Wilson. That kind of thinking works for the Devil Rays, and might get people's minds off those pesky pierogi races...

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed 2B-R Bret Boone on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/27 (knee contusion); recalled SS-B Kevin Nicholson from Las Vegas. [8/29]

Bret Boone may not be the Invisible Man, but he's getting pretty close to it. There's still the perception that he's a star, but he doesn't hit like one. The problem is the difference between raw numbers and rates. Sure, Boone has 19 home runs, so you figure he's got some sock, and he's even drawing better than a walk for every ten at-bats (50 to 463), so he's even doing a decent job of getting on base, right?

Consider these three players:

.251/.326/.421, .257 Equivalent Average
.251/.345/.379, .259 EqA
.229/.365/.328, .261 EqA

Those are, in order, the seasons of Boone, Damian Jackson and Desi Relaford. You'll have a hard time convincing me that the Padres will even notice that Boone is gone, even on defense. Jackson is a better second baseman than a shortstop, and between Relaford and Jackson, somebody was going to be making an E-6 every fourth day or so, with or without Boone. Boone has been in the Jim Gantner Zone for a few years now, as Bill James once put it about the Brewers' second baseman: a player who just goes along and doesn't hurt you or anybody else.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Activated LHP Robert Ramsay from the DL; optioned RHP Joel Piniero to Tacoma. [8/29]

Joel Pineiro pitched poorly in the pen, killing any chance he had at a postseason job. On the other hand, he did not really have that much of an opportunity, because it was reasonable to expect the Mariners to want Robert Ramsay around as the second left-hander in the pen behind Arthur Lee Rhodes, and Ramsay has pitched well in long relief.

For the time being, it looks like the pitching staff is set, although it's surprising how little debate there seems to be about having Jose Mesa around. I guess having somebody aroung who's "been through the wars" and lost them has some sort of value.

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated RHP Ryan Glynn from the DL; optioned RHP Darwin Cubillan to Oklahoma. [8/29]

As just about everything seems to be ending on a disappointing note for the Rangers, there are still a few things they can hopefully straighten out in the last month. Giving Ryan Glynn a chance to get himself straightened out is one of them. He has not been particularly effective in the majors this year, but hopefully he'll get another five or six starts to right himself.

Glynn can't count on a rotation spot being handed to him next spring. Darren Oliver will be back, and the Rangers' starters break into two groups: Oliver, Rick Helling and Kenny Rogers, who are guaranteed slots as is Justin Thompson if he's healthy; and then Glynn, Doug Davis, Matt Perisho and arguably Brian Sikorski battling for that last slot (or two, if Thompson is hurt again). In the second group, Davis and Glynn might be the favorites to win, and Perisho seems to be doing everything in his power to excuse himself from the running, but it could easily wind up coming down to what happens right now instead of what happens next spring.

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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