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September 13, 2000

Transaction Analysis

September 10-11, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired RHP Hector Carrasco from the Twins for OF-R Lew Ford. [9/10]

Signed RHP Steve Ontiveros. [9/11]

Increasingly desperate times call for increasingly desperate measures, but neither of these moves are bad so much as slightly embarrassing. By Michael Wolverton's Reliever Evaluation Tools, Hector Carrasco had not done the Twins any favors, but he's not exactly in Darren Holmes or Brian Williams territory when it comes to harming his team. Both Rich Garces and Hipolito Pichardo are predictably hurt, and you need to worry about any pen relying too heavily on Rod Beck to set up Derek Lowe. Lew Ford is hardly an exceptional prospect, not in an organization that seems to have avoided taking Michael Coleman very seriously, and Coleman is only a year older than Ford despite playing at Pawtucket since 1997, while Ford played in the Sally League this year.

For greater amusement, there's the decision to sign ex-All Star Steve Ontiveros. Like I said, I think it's embarrassing, but it isn't that bad. With the stretch of doubleheaders coming up, if you had to nab one guy who can fire strikes (slow ones, to be sure) for one game against the Indians, you could do a lot worse than resurrecting Steve Ontiveros. As long as the Duke makes sure that it's somebody like Manny Alexander who gets booted off of the 40-man roster to make space, and doesn't instead try to slip a prospect through waivers, the worst that can happen is Onto gets smacked around.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled 3B-R Joe Crede from Birmingham (Double-A); signed broadcaster Ken Harrelson to an eight-year contract. [9/1]

After hitting .307/.384/.487 for the Barons, Joe Crede should be able to walk into camp next year and stake a claim on the third-base job. In the meantime, he can settle for a couple of spot starts and some stints as the defensive replacement for Herb Perry and Greg Norton.

I've loathed Hawk Harrelson's announcing style over the years, but for better or for worse, he's identifiable as the Voice of the Sox. There are a lot of things I miss about Chicago, but Hawk isn't one of them. Whether it's his whining about umpiring conspiracies that have focused on keeping the Sox out of the World Series for at least a decade, or his years of bullying Tom Paciorek on the air--I think we could all use the good karma of seeing "Wimpy" bust Hawk in the schnozz for old times' sake--or his inclination to share more about his golf game than anything about the opposing team, I find it hard to enjoy a Hawk broadcast. But all of these things could be charitably chalked up as annoying idiosyncrasies of a person with personality, and I'm sure there's a group of fans who'd rather listen to Hawk talk about Rick Rhoden's handicap than the saccharine chirping of Thom Brennaman or Chip Caray. In a Katie Couric world, Hawk gets to be one of the last dinosaurs.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Recalled 1B/LF-R Chan Perry from Buffalo. [9/10]

While I ranted about Wil Cordero and the ill effects of having him around, I forgot to stress that the Tribe is better off without him, not merely because it means a real job for Russ Branyan, but also because Chan Perry makes an adequate platoon mate for Branyan, which in turn keeps Jolbert Cabrera in a utility role.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Purchased the contract of IF-R Eddie Zosky from New Orleans; transferred LHP Billy Wagner from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/11]

Man, was it really almost ten years ago that Eddie Zosky was a prospect, famed for his great throwing arm? As much as Tim Bogar gets bashed, the interesting distinction between these two journeymen is that while Bogar wasn't famous for anything or any particular tool, he's wound up having a good little career, and the guy with the signature skill is left wishing there was a Triple-A pension plan.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Recalled RHP Eric Gagne and LHP Jeff Williams and 2B-R Hiram Bocachica from Albuquerque. [9/11]

Eric Gagne will resume pitching in the rotation now that it doesn't look like the Dodgers will contend for anything.

The interesting call-up is Hiram Bocachica. Hitting in Albuquerque's bandbox, Bocachica had a strange season, with final rates of .322/.390/.560, but with a funky home/road split. In Albuquerque, he hit .375, but with only five of his 23 home runs, while on the road, he hit .275 with the other 18 home runs. While the other parks in the PCL aren't exactly pitcher's paradises, that nevertheless seems like a strange breakdown to me, enough so to say Bocachica should turn out a lot better than Dave Anderson. Converted to second base after some error-prone seasons as a shortstop coming up in the Expos' organization, Bocachica still has something to learn at the position, having booted 23 balls in 118 games. With Mark Grudzielanek signed, the Dodgers should probably consider where else they'd like Bocachica to play. Center field is still a problem, and there have been a good number of useful outfielders who started off as fumble-fingered middle infielders.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Acquired OF-R Lew Ford from the Red Sox for RHP Hector Carrasco. [9/10]

Lew Ford had an excellent season in the Sally League at Augusta, hitting .315/.390/.479, while swiping 52 bases in 56 attempts. He's already 24, and this was his first full professional season after being drafted in 1999. The Sally League is the lowest rung of full-season A-ball leagues (along with the Midwest League), and Ford was one of the oldest regulars there. I'm not saying that he can't play, because he's shown some promise. But the Twins didn't exactly land Willie Mays. They acquired an interesting player for an adequate reliever, and outside of Larry Andersen-sized ripoffs, that seems like an appropriate exchange rate.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Recalled 2B/3B-R Trace Coquillette from Ottawa. [9/11]

An organizational soldier returns. I've already kvetched that if the Expos were really worried about money, they wouldn't have kept Mike Mordecai for much more than the minimum when they could have either handed Trace Coquillette his job, or at least threatened Mordecai's job security with Coquillette's existence.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed C/DH-L Dave Nilsson for the remainder of the season. [8/31]

I know, none of us will weep for the Yankees, but Nilsson was signed only a few hours too late to be eligible for the postseason roster. Backup catcher Chris Turner is probably the happiest about this.

Other than Nilsson's playing a couple of games over baseball's final weekend in pinstripes, the major impact of this move will be determined by the Elias Sports Bureau's wacky free-agent ranking system, which will award the Yankees a draft pick for Nilsson should he sign elsewhere. So even when something doesn't work out for the Yankees, something might work out for the Yankees. Nobody said life was fair.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled RHPs Ariel Prieto, Jon Ratliff and Scott Service, 2B-R Jose Ortiz, OF-Rs Eric Byrnes and Bo Porter and 3B-B Mark Bellhorn from Sacramento; released 2B/SS-R Josue Espada outright; designated LHP Leo Vasquez for assignment; transferred 1B-L Mario Valdez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/11]

The bad news is that Sacramento will not get in its first season as an Oakland affiliate what Vancouver got in its last, the Triple-A World Series title. The good news is that the A's can use a good group of minor leaguers to reinforce their bench down the stretch, and hopefully start some limited auditioning for jobs that need to be open to competition in the spring.

First and foremost, the A's need to start making up their minds about what they want to do with Jose Ortiz. Ortiz just won the PCL's MVP award after hitting .351/.408/.575. Even so, Ortiz isn't without a few warts. He's an error-prone shortstop, and there are some in the organization who don't think he'll be able to play the position regularly in the major leagues. He'll never push Eric Chavez aside at third base, which means that Billy Beane will have to consider making Randy Velarde available for deals next spring or letting Ortiz die on the vine.

Mark Bellhorn is in a similar situation, having hit .266/.399/.521; although he spent most of the year as the River Cats' regular third baseman, he has experience at all four infield positions and will probably push Frankie Menechino aside and take over as the utility infielder next year. He's a good enough player to get into a lineup rotation that could get him 300 plate appearances.

The other roster spot that needs to be up in the air is Ryan Christenson's. Christenson is little more than Ben Grieve's defensive replacement, and the A's need a fourth outfielder capable of more than that. Bo Porter had a good second half, but still only wound up hitting .272/.386/.416, while Eric Byrnes could give the A's a good right-handed line-drive bat that would add greater diversity to an offense already overridden with Three True Outcome hitters. Unfortunately, neither Byrnes or Porter can play center field very regularly, which is what separates them from Christenson. If the A's continue to use Terrence Long on an everyday basis, then Christenson's advantage becomes much less significant. By throwing the position up for grabs next spring, maybe they'll push Christenson to improve, but more likely, they'll wind up with Byrnes and a stronger group of outfielders.

Among the rest of the callups, Ariel Prieto may get a spot start, but Mark Mulder is going strong and they already have Omar Olivares rotting in the bullpen. For Jon Ratliff, the callup is a godsend for his impending minor-league free agency; he may yet end up being a handy swingman for a major-league team.

The cuts are an interesting pair. Josue Espada is an outstanding defensive second baseman with bad knees and decent on-base skills. If a team had the roster space for a defensive replacement at second base, he would be a decent pickup. Leo Vasquez probably shouldn't make it through waivers. He throws relatively hard for a left-hander and managed 59 strikeouts in 53 innings to go with a 2.72 ERA as a setup man in Midland.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed C-R Mike Lieberthal on the 60-day DL (bone spur - elbow); purchased the contract of C-R Clemente Alvarez from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/11]

Mike Lieberthal is done for the year, and unfortunately the Phillies don't have a catching prospect to check out in the meantime. Tom Prince is 36, Clemente Alvarez is 32 and Gary Bennett is 28. There are minor-league managers who are younger than all of them. Cesar King, onetime Rangers' prospect, was slipped through waivers and off of the 40-man roster. It seems strange that the Phillies brought up Alvarez instead of King, but in the grand scheme of strange things the Phillies have done, this is a lot less important than last winter's decision to discard Bobby Estalella, for example.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Purchased the contract of LHP Chad Zerbe from Fresno; recalled LHP Mike Riley from Fresno and placed him on the 60-day DL (shoulder tendinitis). [9/11]

Add Chad Zerbe to the list of independent league retreads, as he's gone from a 1991 draft pick by the Dodgers to the Snakes to a stint pitching for the Sonoma County Crushers in the Western League in 1997, which he parlayed into his incarnation as a Giant and a trip to the big leagues. As with all long-odds survivors, hats off to his getting to the show.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Recalled CF-B Randy Winn, OF-R Ozzie Timmons and C-R Toby Hall from Durham; placed RHP Ryan Rupe on the 60-day DL (blood clot - shoulder); designated LHP Mike Duvall for assignment. [9/11]

The only callup with a chance to make an impact in the near future is Toby Hall. He hit .343/.378/.494 with Orlando before going to Durham and hitting .308/.318/.505, and is a line-drive hitter with some questions about his ability to stop the running game; a good comparison would be to Brian Harper. Fortunately for the Devil Rays, between Mike Difelice and John Flaherty, they have two solid catch-and-throw types looking for a good enough hitter for them to caddy for.

Ozzie Timmons had a spectacular season, hitting .302/.395/.543 while scoring 100 runs and driving in 104. He's one of those guys I always root for, like Ernie Young or Pat Lennon, for no especially good reason, other than that I think he'd be handier to have around than somebody like Marty Cordova or Brant Brown. Right now, he's on the career path that will eventually lead him to Pawtucket, with a shot at a couple of weeks with the Red Sox during one of the Duke's monthly bench reshuffles.

Through surgery and blood thinners, Ryan Rupe is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for next season. In his absence, Cory Lidle will get his chance to earn a spot in next year's rotation. For the record, the D-Rays are going with Albie Lopez, Bryan Rekar, Lidle, ex-Young Gun Paul Wilson and Travis Harper. Tanyon Sturtze should be reactivated and replace one of those last three for a start or two.

TEXAS RANGERS

Recalled RHP Darwin Cubillan and SS-R Kelly Dransfeldt from Oklahoma; purchased the contracts of C-R Randy Knorr and DH-B Ruben Sierra from Oklahoma. [9/5]

The Bad Bald One actually hit well enough in Oklahoma (.326/.398/.522) to earn a chance to say goodbye to Rangers fans who should still be snickering about the Canseco trade, but if he takes any playing time at all from Pedro Valdes, that's simply wrong.

Kelly Dransfeldt looks like he's turning into the new Benji Gil after hitting .247/.311/.365. If the Rangers really do make Royce Clayton go away, they could do worse than consider an offense/defense platoon of Scott Sheldon and Dransfeldt next season.

It's nice to see Randy Knorr get one more cup of coffee. He only hit .240/.305/.377 this year, so at 31 it looks like he's either nearing the end of the road, or he can look forward to playing for the Phillies.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Optioned DH-L Kevin Witt to Syracuse. [9/11]

This is the right time of year to try to slip someone through waivers: sometimes, as in this case, nobody has the roster space to claim a Kevin Witt, while last year, the White Sox couldn't sneak Mario Valdez clear. Witt should be angling for minor-league free agency, the Rule 5 draft...anything, because he's never going to get past Carlos Delgado or Brad Fullmer.

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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