Transaction Analysis, April 14-15, 2002

by Chris Kahrl

<< Previous Transaction Analysis

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Announced that C-R Chad Moeller cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Tucson. [4/15]

Apparently, clearing waivers surprised Chad Moeller's agent, which can be interpreted in a number of ways. It could be an example of noble loyalty to a client, or bluster in the face of desperation, or genuine cluelessness. Working with a population that includes some of the sharpest knives in the drawer--Scott Boras for commissioner?--and some of the dullest (who is Tommy Tanzer declaring war on now?), the wisdom of Joaquin Andujar guides us best: youneverknow.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Acquired RHP Marc Deschenes from the Pirates for future considerations. [4/14]

Activated OF-R Moises Alou from the DL; outrighted OF-R Mario Encarnacion to Iowa. [4/15]

With Moises Alou out for the first couple of weeks, Rosie Brown had a shot. With a good start, he could have earned himself 40 to 50 plate appearances at a time when the Cubs needed all the offense they could get. He could have won a semi-serious role for himself, or at the worst, made himself a great bargaining chip for an everyday job with a team that could use a corner outfielder with pop. Instead, he struggled terribly, and Don Baylor is already moving on to new commitments based on April results.

Can you blame the manager? The Cubs offense isn't doing a bad job of reaching base in the early going, but they could use a lineup "finisher," someone hitting the ball hard in play, safely, to convert those opportunities into runs. This suits the profile of Brown's performances as a hitter over the years to a T. Sadly, Brown didn't rise to the occasion, which isn't to say he won't, but this was a great opportunity, and now it's gone.

As far as the Cubs' offense is concerned, it's a good thing to have Moises Alou back. It was going to be a good thing anyway, but now it's a good thing, with prejudice.

As for picking up minor league veteran Marc Deschenes, it looks like the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx are short right-handed relief help. Winston Abreu has been stricken with Steve Blass Disease, and that leaves minor-league journeymen Gabe Sollecito and Dave Hooten. Hooten has been outstanding, but with three lefties in the pen, I'm guessing Jim Hendry wanted to add another right-handed arm to keep his Double-A team competitive.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Announced that RHP Omar Olivares asked for and was given his release from Buffalo. [4/15]

Between the Tribe's hot start, the addition of Jose Mercedes late in the winter signing season, and the obvious preference for a kid like Tim Drew, Omar Olivares was pretty much out of luck as far as getting an opportunity with the Indians. He's better off with somebody else's affiliate, and the Indians shouldn't miss him.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Several readers informed Chris Kahrl that LHP Josh Kalinowski is done for the year. [4/14]

...thereby embarrassing the bejeezus out of the author of a certain diatribe on the virtues of Josh Kalinowski, and what a terrible risk Dan O'Dowd was taking by outrighting the young lefty. Kalinowski won't be available to pitch this year, and considering it's his shoulder (on top of the old elbow injury), he may never pitch in purple and black again. Here's hoping he can come back.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Named Al Avila their VP/Assistant General Manager. [4/15]

Dave Dombrowski rescues one of the refugees, and one of his ex-employees, from the Marlins mess that has a franchise laden with talent meandering towards extinction.

I'm still not sure which is more troublesome, that Jeffrey Loria and his entourage rewarded loyalty by turning over their new franchise to the lackeys who helped turn the Expos into a joke, or that he couldn't identify that the Marlins' front office was doing a better job than his was. Now, the point is moot, and Al Avila gets to confront the new challenge of helping turn around los Tigres.

Of course, this doesn't do any favors for the Pirates' David Littlefield, who originally took Avila in from the cold in the wake of the Great Franchise Swaperoo, but Littlefield (another ex-Marlin) had brought Avila in as a special assistant, and this is clearly a better job for a guy with considerable player development experience.

Now, to sound a cautionary note, Dombrowski is not Branch Rickey, and Avila probably isn't Fred Ferreira or Andres Reiner. But clearly, if you're swapping the way things have been done from Point A (that agonizing stretch of forever that's been miserable from the moment Bo Schembechler darkened their door) to Point B (Dombrowski and some of the people from that now-impossibly convoluted Expos/Marlins connection pull into town), that's about as good an upgrade as you could reasonably wish for as a Tigers fan.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed RHP Wade Miller on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/13 (pinched nerve - neck); recalled RHP Brandon Puffer from New Orleans. [4/15]

Losing Wade Miller is never a good thing, but courtesy of early-season scheduling, the Astros don't have a Monday game until mid-May, which means they're only going to need a fifth starter three times--apparently in the three Saturday games--between now and then. Seven-day cycles aren't long enough to give you the time to yo-yo the guy (probably Tim Redding) between outings on and off of your roster, because the rules prohibit recalls within ten days of a demotion unless there's an injury involved. Since John Hart isn't this Texas team's GM, what may end up happening is that Redding and Carlos Hernandez will trade off between the fourth and fifth slots, essentially pitching for their jobs pending Miller's return. Not every franchise could afford to lose a pitcher as good as Wade Miller, and not having him for four starts will hurt, but it won't kill them the way Andy Benes is deadly, and it may produce a stronger rotation in the long term if Hernandez or Redding rises to the occasion.

Brandon Puffer has gone from all over the place to semi-prospectdom now that he's a hard-throwing side-armer. Given a choice between him and Nelson Cruz, I'd take Puffer, but that's because Cruz is just a minor-league journeyman turned into one of the best remaining leftovers from the last Ausmus trade. It's more likely that Puffer will have to outpitch somebody with options, like Scott Linebrink, if he wants to stick around. Of course, the Astros are still wasting time with Hipolito Pichardo, but maybe if he gets cranky again he'll "retire" again.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Returned LHP Darrell May to the 15-day DL (strained groin). [4/15]

Who gets called up is still interesting, although initial press reports seem to indicate that Chris George will not be the man. Living in an Age of the New Bush, I can't say I'm surprised that there are still some afflicted by the absence of that "vision thing."

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Signed RHP Mike Trombley to a minor-league contract. [4/15]

Scraping the gunk off of Mike Trombley to see if you can re-tread him makes good sense for any franchise. I suppose it's especially nice to see him get a shot at that whole "prodigal son" angle that sports offers us about six zillion times, not even counting the inevitable "Randy Smith and Brad Ausmus, together again" hijinks that are about as timeless and unexpected as the Rolling Stones' Creaky Wheels tour.

Trombley was never that bad, but he was also never as good as the expectations that surrounded his free agency after the 1999 season. That's OK--redistributing Peter Angelos's wealth is a national pastime unto itself--but you would think more franchises might learn something from Trombley's example and realize that investing too heavily in a so-called closer is a mistake. As Trombley illustrates, public perception of your value hinges on whether or not they think you're a closer or you're short the "c." Trombley was never really either of those things, and it's an open question about whether either really exists in baseball. He was, and is, a useful big-league reliever. He'll help the Twins at the minimum.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Outrighted LHP Ed Vosberg to Ottawa; recalled 2B-B Henry Mateo from Ottawa. [4/15]

This is a reasonable adaptation on the roster in the wake of swiping Bruce Chen from the Mets. With Chen, Graeme Lloyd, and Scott Stewart in the pen, the Expos already have a trio of left-handers who can pitch, so why bother with a situational reliever? With six relievers who aren't situational guys in the bullpen, why bother carrying seven of them?

Meanwhile, the nagging injuries to Orlando Cabrera and Jose Vidro create some space for Henry Mateo to get some spot starts. Mateo will have other uses as well. Frank Robinson has wound up with a bench that reads like some of the old benches he built managing the Giants, almost cut from the original Weaver cloth: he has a right-handed power hitter (the Big Cat), a lefty (O Henry!), and they happen to be local favorites. He has a lefty-hitting catcher (Brian Schneider) who can play. He has a pair of utility men (Mike Mordecai and Lou Collier) who between them can cover just about every position on the field. Those five guys all have their uses, but none of them can run, and while the running game is overrated, a pinch-runner in the late innings can win you a game now and again, so F. Robby is right to decide that he could use a pinch-runner with Mateo's speed more than a fourth lefty in the pen.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Signed OF-L Billy McMillon and LHP Bill Pulsipher to minor-league contracts. [4/13]

An interesting pair of signings. Billy McMillon is the poor man's Warren Newson, which is a pretty crummy place to be when you're 30. He'll definitely help a scuffling Clippers team score some runs. The odd choice is resuscitating Bill Pulsipher. Do the Clippers need a third lefty in their pen? They already have one of the best left-handed relievers in Triple-A today in Kevin Lovingier, and the Yankees just demoted Randy Choate to the perdition of central Ohio. Asking what Pulsipher is good for has been the case for about six years now. When a guy isn't even your next-to-next-to-next-to-best option, why bother?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Traded RHP Marc Deschenes to the Cubs for future considerations. [4/14]

Claimed IF-R Tomas de la Rosa off of waivers from the Expos and assigned him to Nashville. [4/15]

The Pirates have all sorts of guys who can play shortstop on their big-league roster. They have Jack Wilson and Pokey Reese, and they both might be among the top ten defensive shortstops in the majors today if they were both playing shortstop everyday this year. The Bucs also have Abraham Nunez and Mike Benjamin on the bench, and both of them can play shortstop well.

Down in Nashville, though, they were left with minor-league journeyman Shawn Gilbert as their regular, and at 37, he's probably not doing his pitching staff many favors. So nabbing Tomas de la Rosa on waivers isn't a move to help their big-league team as much as it is a move to help on the development side of things. They get somebody who's going to cover a lot more ground at short for the Sounds. De la Rosa isn't a prospect, but he might turn into a perfectly adequate replacement for Nunez or Benjamin, and is obviously a better use of a 40-man roster spot than Pat Meares. The interesting thing is that de la Rosa is actually younger than Wilson by a month, and if Wilson doesn't start hitting, how long can they afford to wait on him?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Gene Stechschulte to Memphis; purchased the contract of RHP Travis Smith from Memphis. [4/15]

Just when you thought that Andy Benes couldn't wreak any more damage, he surprises you. Because Benes has done such a good job of spreading work to the bullpen, the shortage of fresh arms to work long innings if Garrett Stephenson's breakdown gets serious creates enough of a roster issue that the Cardinals have to reshuffle their roster to compensate. Gene Stechschulte had the misfortune of being the one reliever on this veteran team with options, so thanks to Benes in some small way, he has to go to make sure that the Cardinals can continue to cover for Benes every fifth day and have a spot starter available to start for Stephenson in an emergency.

Benes might only put his team in the hole in a single game when he's pitching, but carrying him on the roster creates other in-season handicaps that the Cardinals should no longer attempt to try and afford. They'd be better off trying to use Mike Matthews and a veteran minor-league control artist like Travis Smith, at least until Rick Ankiel and Woody Williams are ready to come back off of the DL.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Delvin James from Durham; purchased the contract of LHP Tom Martin from Durham; activated IF-R Russ Johnson from the DL; placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL (strained muscle - rib cage); optioned RHP Travis Phelps and IF-L Jason Smith to Durham; transferred LHP Bobby Seay from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/15]

Some of this is just damned peculiar. What's the point of hauling in a veteran situational lefty like Tom Martin? The Devil Rays already have a good pair of lefties in their pen, between Doug Creek and Rule 5er Steve Kent. Among the four right-handed relievers left now that Travis Phelps has been shipped out, there's another Rule 5er, Jorge Sosa, and hard-throwing project Jesus Colome. That means really counting on Victor Zambrano and Esteban Yan. It's worth carrying Sosa and evaluating Colome, but a third lefty in a seven-man pen with this particular group of talent in the other six seems sillier than '70s nostalgia.

The Devil Rays are saying that moving Wilson Alvarez to the DL was merely precautionary, but it's worth comparing his situation with the sad on-again/off-again spurts of Alex Fernandez's career. You have to wonder if Alvarez is ever going to be able to contribute, and now that he's in the last year of his contract, the question might go unanswered. In his absence, the D-Rays have Delvin James up. James has been whip-sawed back and forth between starting and relieving on his way through the system; he can consistently throw hard, and he has a solid change-up, but there seems to be a lack of a plan as to what he's going to be when he grows up. For the moment, he's a patch in the rotation, but even if/when Alvarez returns, James probably needs to stick in the bullpen, considering the problems outlined above.

We'll never know if Hal McRae's decision to hand the third-base job back to Russ Johnson once he returned from the DL was out of principle or because Bobby Smith looks like he's never going to turn the corner. Johnson will add a needed dose of on-base skills to a lineup saddled with Jason Tyner cluttering the leadoff slot. There's a logic loop in there (Tyner is fast, we need a leadoff hitter, so Tyner is our leadoff hitter, and if Tyner isn't hitting leadoff, what's he for?) that McRae needs to step off of, select "what's he for?," think about that one for ten minutes if necessary, and then bench him.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Colby Lewis to Oklahoma. [4/15]

It wouldn't be a John Hart kind of team without a roster tantrum or two. Times getting tough? Blame a reliever! What's indefensible is the notion that a pair of bad outings (on the heels of his best one) somehow change the logic of keeping Lewis up in a long-relief role in the first place.

What's changed is that the team is losing hand over fist as the injuries mount and the expectations wither and die. Why hold Lewis accountable? He's part of this team's future. Why not whack one of Hart's personal mistakes, like Traction Action Rudy Seanez or the indefensible Danny Miceli? The Rangers aren't going to contend, and the chances that they might get much of value for either Seanez or Miceli are minuscule. Why jerk around the organization's best pitching prospect after initially having the courage to put him into that long-relief role? Why chicken out when the going gets tough?

Chris Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.


Baseball Prospectus Home