Transaction Analysis, April 30-May 11, 2002

by Chris Kahrl

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ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Matt Wise from Salt Lake. [4/30]

Optioned OF-B Jeff DaVanon to Salt Lake; purchased the contract of CF-R Julio Ramirez from Salt Lake. [5/2]

It seems more than a little unusual that a team that prides itself on having some good defense in the outfield, one that already has players in its lineup and on its bench who don't get on base, would exchange Jeff DaVanon for Julio Ramirez on the basis of fewer than 40 plate appearances.

Both players are moderately useful. DaVanon is probably more of your prototypical fourth outfielder, because he switch-hits, he can hit a little (but not a lot), and he can play all three outfield positions (but not center field regularly). Ramirez is more of a fifth outfielder: he's a good center fielder who can run, and he might have value as a right-handed hitting caddy for somebody like Darin Erstad or Jim Edmonds, lefty regulars who will start 95% of the time but might want or need a day off when Randy Johnson is on the mound.

On a team that can't expect much offense from its catcher or the right side of its infield, and that isn't getting much from its outfield or DH, I would think carrying the more useful all-around player, DaVanon, would make more sense. As it stands now, the Angels have a bench with Ramirez, Orlando Palmeiro, Jose Nieves, and Jorge Fabregas. If that was the bench of a team with a great lineup, it would be acceptable, but this is the bench that is guaranteed to keep an already bad offensive team on the field.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Bret Prinz to Tucson; purchased the contract of RHP Jose Parra from Tucson. [4/30]

Placed OF-L Dave Dellucci on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); activated IF-R Danny Klassen from the DL. [5/3]

Placed RHP Todd Stottlemyre on the 15-day DL (physically unable to perform); activated LHP Greg Swindell from the DL. [5/4]

Outrighted IF-R Danny Klassen to Tucson; purchased the contract of RHP Erik Sabel from Tucson. [5/5]

This wild surge of turnover essentially has one blameworthy candidate: the attempts to coddle the fuzzy human interest story of Todd Stottlemyre's improbable comeback. His one quality start, the only game among four in which he reached the sixth inning, came against a lineup that had B.J. Surhoff batting cleanup.

Stottlemyre wants to be back by June, but it might be worth holding him back much longer than that. Beyond the Big Two, Miguel Batista is rounding back into the form that made him the Snakes' third-best starter last year, so that's three starters who might regularly keep the bullpen at three innings or less on a given night. Rick Helling has not worked out well so far, and Brian Anderson has been even less effective than that. Both, unlike Stottlemyre, might be semi-healthy and semi-durable in the future. Stottlemyre won't be, and that undermines whatever slender utility he might have. On a team struggling with the workload currently being placed on the bullpen, why lock in somebody for whom five innings is a spectacular achievement? Stottlemyre might be worthy of admiration, but it's still just five innings of dubious quality, and the Snakes are trying to win something.

As a result of the workload placed on the bullpen, it's a bit surprising to see them send off Bret Prinz as quickly as they have, but he's been wild and frightening in high-leverage situations. It's worth letting him get innings and regular work in Tucson to get him back on track.

That decision gets Jose Parra back into the big leagues. Anyone else remember when Parra and Ron Coomer were the prizes in the Dodgers' stretch-drive acquisition of Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie? I'm usually a Terry Ryan booster, but that was clearly not one of his better deals. At any rate, carrying the seven-man pen might make some sort of sense until Batista and Helling and Anderson are regularly cranking out two six-plus inning starts per turn through the rotation.

Danny Klassen wasn't about to push his way past Junior Spivey or Craig Counsell; at this rate, Jay Bell won't push past either of them once he's reactivated.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of OF-L Darren Bragg from Richmond; transferred OF-L George Lombard from the 15- to the 60-day DL; optioned RF-L Ryan Langerhans to Greenville (Double-A). [4/30]

Signed OF-R Jermaine Allensworth to a minor-league contract. [5/4]

Optioned RHP Tim Spooneybarger to Richmond. [5/10]

Activated RHP Jason Marquis from the DL. [5/11]

I touched on the Darren Bragg/Ryan Langerhans exchange in the last TA, so there isn't much to add. Instead, let's enjoy a diversion inspired by George Lombard.

Once upon a time, in a face-to-face Strat league using the cards for the new 1978 season set, we drafted teams without seeing the cards or any sort of scouting information. We went just by the traditional stats we had available. Part of the fun was seeing how far off we'd be in terms of winding up with teams we could use.

One of the most tantalizing mysteries was Leon Roberts, whose numbers were fabulous: .301/.367/.515, 22 home runs, the best year of his career. But it was Leon Roberts, and how good could he be? The mystery of Leon Roberts intrigued and beckoned, and sure enough, my buddy Al could not resist. Like an unopened Christmas present, the contents of the Leon Roberts Box made fun sounds when you shook it, but you just didn't know what you were going to get until you finally opened the box. So did it work out? It didn't; Roberts had a massive platoon split that reduced him to a star among the Mark Brouhard/Rusty Kuntz All-Stars in the Lefty Bopper Hall of Moderate Notoriety.

To cut to the relevant part of what might otherwise be a tedious stroll through memory lane--well, I did win that league, but I had Bombo Rivera, so how could I lose?--I can't help but wonder at what point we'll ever discover what the contents of the George Lombard Box will be. Sadly, I think this is one of those packages that wound up getting lost behind the Christmas tree, only to get eaten by the (dog/cat/scorpion/pet of choice) while nobody was watching. If I didn't know better, I'd swear he was a Blue Jays outfield prospect of the Lou Thornton/Sil Campusano/Ron Shepherd/William Canate stamp.

Jason Marquis' return brings the Braves' rotation back to full strength, pushing Albie Lopez into a suitable role as sixth starter and long man now that Damian Moss has staked a strong claim to the fifth slot. The problem is sending down Tim Spooneybarger, who deserved better. In John Schuerholz's defense, Spooneybarger had an option, and it would be premature to cut Lopez or Kerry Ligtenberg. Perhaps even more surprisingly, neither of the aged mop-up duo of Chris Hammond and Darren Holmes has done anything to disappoint. They've both been significantly better than last April's journeyman relievers, Joe Slusarski and Marc Valdes. The happy problem is that, unlike last year, the Braves don't need a gift like Jose Cabrera to fall into their collective lap off of the waiver wire; they've got the old guys doing well and Tim Spooneybarger.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Optioned RHP Josh Towers to Rochester. [5/2]

Purchased the contract of C-R Izzy Molina from Rochester. [5/4]

Acquired RHP Mike Drumright from the Red Sox for a PTBNL and assigned him to Rochester. [5/8]

Covering for an injured catcher is one of the primary goals here, as Geronimo Gil's strained groin and hammy creates an unfortunate surplus of Brook Fordyce playing time. Izzy Molina isn't quite a cult figure, just one of several lesser lights from among a constellation of catchers that came out of the Oakland system in the '90s. He is what he was: a serviceable backstop, decent pop, little patience, and wondering what it takes to get to get Tom Prince's gig.

More troubling is the decision to quit on Josh Towers. The Orioles made the decision to bring the fences back in, the Orioles scored a whopping three runs in his three starts, and the Orioles freaked out about eight home runs (but only 12 runs total) allowed in those starts. Not that an ERA in the mid-5.00s is a good thing, but that standard looks like it's beyond Sean Douglass's means. If three starts is the new threshold for organizational freakouts, the Orioles aren't going to be emotionally prepared for the highs and lows to come once guys like Matt Riley or Erik Bedard are called up.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Willie Banks to Pawtucket; recalled IF-R Lou Merloni from Pawtucket. [5/2]

This was only a month overdue, since it never makes sense to carry 12 pitchers during a stretch when the schedule features plenty of off days. I don't know about you, but I'm a lot more comfortable with the Sox roster now. Still, a spare outfielder instead of Carlos Baerga might not be a bad thing to have. There's too much talk of releasing Jose Offerman, as if the waves of spiteful joy so common to New England would somehow yield results on the field to overshadow Offerman's superiority as a hitter and as a player to Baerga. Catering to His Mannyness should only go so far; if Nomar Garciaparra can accept seeing Lou Merloni demoted, Ramirez ought to be able to live with seeing his posse of one in street clothes.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Optioned RHP Jon Rauch and LHP Jim Parque to Charlotte. [5/2]

Recalled RHPs Rocky Biddle and Matt Ginter from Charlotte. [5/3]

One of the nice things that the White Sox have going for them is that they have enough pitching talent that they can afford a couple of performance-related roster tantrums like this. Jon Rauch and Jim Parque got you down? Send 'em out, make 'em rue the day, slap Gary Glover into the rotation, and give Rocky Biddle and Matt Ginter trials. It's worth remembering that the Sox kept all of these guys ahead of Josh Fogg, a move that was both defensible and understandable at the time. They all have talent, and Nardi Contreras's track record with young pitchers is pretty good, so this isn't panic so much as disgust and disappointment made manifest.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Activated 3B-B Bill Mueller from the DL; placed C-B Todd Hundley on the 15-day DL (thumb). [5/6]

Placed LHP Donovan Osborne on the 15-day DL (strained muscle - side); recalled RHP Scott Chiasson from Iowa. [5/8]

Placed RHP Carlos Zambrano on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); purchased the contract of 2B-B Bobby Hill from Iowa. [5/10]

The sign of a bad organization is when it caves to popular pressure. Delino DeShields has had a miserable start to his season, but with Bill Mueller back, what is Bobby Hill doing up right now? Hill has barely earned his call-up, showing good command of the strike zone but little sock at Iowa. Mark Bellhorn and Chris Stynes need to be kept busy somehow. I would rather give Hill another month and let him learn a little bit more about driving his pitch. After all, Hill can't fix the more basic problems, which are that Fred McGriff and Moises Alou and the catchers aren't hitting.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Activated RHP John Riedling from the DL, and optioned him to Chattanooga (Double-A). [5/2]

Placed RHP Joey Hamilton on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Jose Acevedo from Louisville. [5/7]

Talk about bad breaks. Joey Hamilton was well on his way towards becoming another data point for the argument that Don Gullett is the game's best pitching coach before he partially tore his hamstring on a fielding play. Given the team's general reliance on their deep and talented bullpen, Jose Acevedo will be put into the five-inning role that's sort of working for everyone in the rotation not named Elmer Dessens.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed CF-B Milton Bradley on the 15-day DL (eye contusion); activated UT-R Jolbert Cabrera from the DL. [5/2]

Recalled LHP Alex Herrera from Akron (Double-A); optioned 1B-R Earl Snyder to Buffalo. [5/10]

Milton Bradley may not have heard of the Curse of Rocky Colavito, but he certainly seems to be its latest victim. He was the Tribe's only legitimate center fielder, and off to a good start; now he's out for months to come and the Tribe has to make do with a Brady Anderson/Dilbert Cabrera platoon in his absence. The White Sox and Twins are already the class of the division, but this sort of bad break certainly doesn't help the Indians' chances any.

Bringing up Alex Herrera was simply to cover for Ricky Rincon's departure for a family emergency, and does not reflect a newfound commitment to carrying a second left-hander in the pen. (Whether or not a second lefty would be more useful than Mark Wohlers or Charles Nagy or Chad Paronto seems pretty cut and dried, but that's another issue.) Liberal leave policies seem to be the rule of the day for most teams, which might be an area to say something nice about working conditions in today's game.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Designated RHP Mike James for assignment; optioned C-R Ben Petrick to Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of C-R Bobby Estalella from Colorado Springs; activated RHP Justin Speier from the DL. [5/6]

Replacing Ben Petrick with Bobby Estalella is one of those sorts of things that I can't help but feel ambivalent about. After all, I think both should turn out well, and both have more certainly not done so thus far. Heck, Gary Bennett is somebody who should turn out well, and he's struggling, too. Nothing seems to be working as far as the Rockies and their catchers, which might be so horrifying as to summon up an otherwise inconceivable sense of nostalgia for Joe Girardi, maybe even Jayhawk Owens. Dan O'Dowd has good talent on hand, and he's using it. That they're not hitting isn't his fault, but it has to drive you to distraction as a GM.

Where you might question O'Dowd's sensibilities was getting excited about Mike James in the first place. A broken-down situational righty isn't the most effective use of a spot on the active roster, especially in Coors Field.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Matt Anderson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/27 (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Fernando Rodney from Erie (Double-A). [5/2]

As much fun as it is to watch Matt Anderson, this will have absolutely zero impact on the Tigers, any more than losing Roberto Hernandez made any difference in the Royals' place in the standings. Closers on bad teams are tradable commodities, but they don't have a major impact on their team's place in the standings.

In Anderson's absence, Fernando Rodney gets the call. He is actually 25, not 21, but that shouldn't sour you on him. He throws hard, and that's not going to go away whatever his birth date. Taking a look-see at him is a good thing for the Tigers on a team that doesn't have enough good things to make a fan care. At this point, Tigers fans have to have a bit of gallows humor, especially when confronted with rumors like letting Dmitri Young line up at third base next to Shane Halter at shortstop. If that's not the ultimate "ole" left side of an infield, I don't know what is.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Placed 1B/OF-R Kevin Millar on the 15-day DL (strained side). [5/4]

Optioned LHP Nate Teut to Edmonton; recalled RHP Blaine Neal from Edmonton. [5/5]

Activated RHP Julian Tavarez from the DL; optioned RHP Blaine Neal to Calgary. [5/11]

Replacing Kevin Olsen in the rotation with Julian Tavarez seems like a step backwards, but the Marlins seem a bit lackadaisical about taking their shot at winning the NL East seriously.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Placed RHP T.J. Mathews on the 15-day DL (strained biceps); activated RHPs Hipolito Pichardo and Nelson Cruz from the DL; optioned RHP Brad Lidge to New Orleans. [5/3]

Announced the re-retirement of RHP Hipolito Pichardo; recalled LF-R Jason Lane from New Orleans. [5/9]

Look, I'm sure Hipolito Pichardo gave it his best shot, but why would you, as an organization, sign a guy who quit last year because he was cranky about...well, pitching in the major leagues, just in Boston? I know I'd question the extent to which he was taking his career seriously. Why sign him? Why guarantee him any kind of money whatsoever? Like the decision to give T.J. Mathews more than his due, or to lock up Jose Vizcaino for a cool million, these were moves where Gerry Hunsicker overpaid for players on the back end of the roster, considering the benefits they offered and the expense of having them.

As excited as I am to see Jason Lane get the call, it's worth remembering that Daryle Ward is having a good season, and Lane has almost no shot at claiming much in the way or playing time.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Assigned RHP Bryan Rekar to Omaha; purchased the contract of C-R Juan Brito from Omaha. [4/30]

Activated RHP Roberto Hernandez from the DL; placed LHP Brian Shouse on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/28 (sore elbow). [5/2]

Placed C-L Brent Mayne on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/30 (back spasms); recalled OF-R Brandon Berger from Omaha. [5/7]

Allard Baird seems to have an uncanny knack for having even his modest moves blow up in his face. He'd just sold Hector Ortiz, Danny Ardoin is sucking, and Brian Johnson is in this organization and playing in Wichita so badly that Brito got promoted to Omaha when Ortiz was sold. So when Brent Mayne's back spasms got serious, the Royals were left with hauling up Brito.

That's the minor/cranky side of things. The happier news is that Jeremy Affeldt is entering the rotation, and seems to have been used initially with a sensible bit of restraint. Since he's the best lefty the Royals have had since Jose Rosado, it's worth remembering that Rosado was worked to death to no obvious end. The other good news is that Brandon Berger is back, since he just seems to hit, and given the choice between Berger's bat and Chuck Knoblauch's rings or moxie or whatever it is he was supposed to bring, I'll take the bat.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Activated RHP Kevin Brown from the DL; optioned RHP Guillermo Mota to Las Vegas. [4/30]

The Dodgers rotation is...well, exactly as good as it should be, even if Darren Dreifort was mysteriously healthy. Kaz Ishii has been about as good as I expected him to be, Odalis Perez has shocked everybody, Kevin Brown is healthy, and Hideo Nomo and Andy Ashby have been serviceable. The entire staff is holding opposing hitters to a combined OBP below .290; Chavez Ravine or no, that's outstanding. The question remains the same: is Dan Evans going to wait for people like Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to hit, or is he going to help his pitching staff by looking for some desperately-needed offensive improvements?

According to Rotowire, Guillermo Mota is now throwing 98, courtesy of some work with pitching coach Jim Colborn. No word on whether it's as straight/hittable as his old fastball of course, but the impact of individual coaches on individual players is one of those areas where we should all tip our caps to the professionals.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Named Jerry Royster full-time manager for the remainder 2002; announced that Cecil Cooper has accepted the role of bench coach for the remainder of 2002. [4/30]

Placed RHP Nelson Figueroa on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/6 (sprained ankle); recalled RHP Brian Mallette from Indianapolis. [5/8]

Purchased the contract of RHP Everett Stull from Indianapolis; optioned RHP Brian Mallette to Indianapolis; transferred RHP Paul Rigdon from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/10]

Philosophical questions about why, what's it all about, what's it for...these come to mind thinking about the Brewers. I mean, if they're not on some god's green earth to give an opportunity to Nelson Figueroa, you have to begin to wonder.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Placed 3B-L Corey Koskie on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of 3B-R Casey Blake from Edmonton; designated 2B-L Warren Morris for assignment. [5/10]

Ugh, first you lose Luis Rivas and have to go with Jay Canizaro and Denny Hocking to man second base. Then you lose Cristian Guzman, and end up with Canizaro and Hocking as a double-play combination. Guzman returns, but Corey Koskie goes down, forcing you to play Hocking at third base once in a while, alternating him with Casey Blake. The team's flock of useful hitters in the outfield (not to mention Matt LeCroy) can only cover for so much. Blake is a good analogue to Ron Coomer, in that he's a semi-useful hitter for a replacement, and he can handle third base reasonably well. Still, the Twins can't afford to lose major offensive components if they want to pick up any ground on the White Sox while Chicago's pitching staff is still getting sorted out.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Activated 3B-R Fernando Tatis from the 15-day disabled list. [4/30]

Placed 1B-R Andres Galarraga on the 15-day DL (strained back); purchased the contract of LHP Joey Eischen from Ottawa. [5/3]

Optioned CF-L Peter Bergeron to Ottawa; recalled CF-L Endy Chavez from Ottawa. [5/7]

Recalled OF-L Troy O'Leary from Ottawa; optioned LF/1B-L Henry Rodriguez to Ottawa. [5/8]

Signed UT-R Wil Cordero; designated UT-R Lou Collier for assignment. [5/11]

There are a couple of interrelationships here that really have to leave you wondering what's going on. Some of this is relatively harmless. Henry Rodriguez probably wasn't going to be as useful off of the bench in a pinch-hitting role as Troy O'Leary could be. O'Leary is more effective getting the ball in play, whereas it seems reasonable to suggest that Rodriguez needs regular playing time if he's going to deliver useful results once in awhile. Getting Fernando Tatis back within days of losing the Big Cat simply slots Chris Truby into the role of right-handed hitting caddy for Lee Stevens at first base, while giving Tatis a shot at redeeming the deal with the Cardinals that at the time looked and felt like a steal for the Expos.

No, the troubling element is giving up on Peter Bergeron in conjunction with bringing in O'Leary and Wil Cordero. Cordero isn't as good as Lou Collier for the right-handed-hitting utility role, so my concern is that he's being brought in to potentially create a left-field platoon of O'Leary and Cordero, with Brad Wilkerson moving into center field. Either that, or going with Endy Chavez (or maybe Ron Calloway eventually) in center. Either solution ought to be considered no better than temporary, and although everyone in the organization is frustrated with Bergeron, he was drawing walks and scoring runs, and he was playing a good center field. Does everyone expect him to do more than that? Yes. But why is the pressure on now, with the club winning? Why not let Bergeron find his way? After all, it looks like Lee Stevens needs help, too.

In the end, though, I think we have to concede that getting Bergeron back to being the player he was once, with an eye to turning him into the player he should be, has to be considered a major organizational goal. If the Expos can accomplish that and get that version of Bergeron in their lineup this year, a winning record might be within the realm of possibility.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Activated LHP Sterling Hitchcock from the DL; optioned RHP Adrian Hernandez to Columbus. [5/9]

What's a Sterling Hitchcock for? This is almost an Ed Whitson situation, where the Yankees have to pay him not to pitch, lest he take innings away from somebody useful.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Activated RHP Satoru Komiyama from the DL; designated RHP Pete Walker for assignment (and lost him on waivers to the Blue Jays). [4/30]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Activated UT-R Randy Velarde from the DL; optioned OF-R Mike Colangelo to Sacramento. [5/4]

Signed LHP Barry Zito to a four-year contract extension with a club option for 2006. [5/7]

Placed OF-L David Justice on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled OF-R Eric Byrnes from Sacramento. [5/8]

Activated LHP Mark Mulder from the DL; optioned RHP Mike Fyhrie to Sacramento. [5/10]

Losing David Justice isn't good news, considering I'm not a big Scott Hatteberg guy, but I am a believer when it comes to Eric Byrnes, so I guess I'm happy. Outfield defense is always going to be an issue for a unit that has Terrence Long in center field and either Justice or Jeremy Giambi in a corner. While I'm not arguing for Byrnes to play every day, he does give the A's a hitter who puts hard-hit balls into play, who can cover an outfield corner well, and basically give the bottom of the lineup someone who can help score some of the other more walk-inclined hitters batting higher up.

Getting Randy Velarde back is good news too, because the A's need a utility man who can eventually play shortstop whenever Miguel Tejada misses his first inning. However, Velarde has replaced Frankie Menechino at second base for the moment, which I'm not wild about, but neither is a star afield, and Menechino has been cold at the plate.

Meanwhile, I really, really hope that Mark Mulder isn't being activated just to get him out there, and that he's 100% physically. The track record of the organization, from Billy Beane to pitching coach Rick Peterson on down, is exceptional when it comes to monitoring the health of their pitchers, so everything should be on the level. Nevertheless, an inveterate worrier like me can't help worrying.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Robert Person on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled LHP Hector Mercado from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/3]

The good news? Robert Person's elbow isn't so bad that he's done for the year; hopefully he'll be back at the end of the week. The bad news? Dave Coggin got the spot start, and that turned out as badly as ever this year. Beyond making you wonder whether or not Nelson Figueroa wouldn't be pretty handy in situations just like this, there's a horde of angry Phillies fans griping "where's Brett Myers?" As much as I'd be ready to feel their pain, I don't begrudge the Phillies their desire to let Myers get a little more experience in the minors, considering he's only just reached Triple-A, and at the moment, it looks like it was just the one start. If Person is out for longer, then I'm with the pack, but until that happens, the Phillies deserve credit for being prudent.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Josias Manzanillo; optioned IF-R Mendy Lopez to Nashville; transferred IF-R Pat Meares from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/3]

Activated 2B-R Pokey Reese from the DL; placed RHP Josias Manzanillo on the 15-day DL (bone chip - elbow). [5/5]

Optioned IF-B Abraham Nunez to Nashville. [5/10]

Activated OF-R Chad Hermansen from the DL. [5/11]

The only thing that bugs me about all of this (well, since Pokey Reese can't be helped), is that Dave Littlefield didn't repeat his Derek Bell experience from this spring and punt Mike Benjamin. Abraham Nunez is a perfectly useful utility infielder who can field, run, and bat from both sides of the plate, while Benjamin is sort of baseball's definitive anti-use of all sorts of positions: on the active roster, the 40-man, in expansion drafts, you name it, Mike Benjamin sets an insanely low threshold for what it takes to get kept. He's sort of the base-hits version of Mark Whiten; six-for-six shouldn't have translated into this much of a career. The Pirates would be better off sending Benjamin to keep Bell company.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed LHP Steve Kline on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/29 (strained triceps); purchased the contract of LHP Jose Rodriguez from Memphis; transferred LHP Rick Ankiel from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/2]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Simontacchi from Memphis; optioned RHP Josh Pearce to Memphis; transferred RHP Andy Benes from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/4]

Activated LHP Bud Smith from the DL; optioned LHP Jose Rodriguez to Memphis. [5/7]

Losing Steve Kline highlights the impact a manager can, should, and perhaps, should not have on player and team performance. It should be pretty reasonable to expect, at this late, well-developed stage of Tony LaRussa's mercurial career, that he's going to pursue that tactical platoon advantage no matter what, even if it means carrying extreme specialists. It worked with Juan Agosto, it worked with Rick Honeycutt, so that's what has to work for any LaRussa bullpen, whether you've got somebody as good as Steve Kline, or if you've got Joe Klink. LaRussa's relief usage patterns are set in stone, as if his law degree came with stone tablets on how to run not just any ballclub, but all ballclubs, forever after, from here on out. Just as clearly, it can work, to some limited extent, but it forces people to survive and succeed within that predefined role.

As far as having a single moment define your career, somebody like Jose Rodriguez, who can pitch, will be judged entirely on what he does against Larry Walker or Barry Bonds or Luis Gonzalez in a single plate appearance. That's no more fair for Rodriguez than judging Dennis Eckersley on two plate appearances in 1988, or Mariano Rivera on the ninth inning of Game Seven last year. The result will be just as decidedly besides the point, as well as almost certainly irrelevant to future performance, turgid claims to the contrary being pretty decisively repudiated by actual events. Rodriguez's ability to be an effective situational lefty should be made on the basis of a real opportunity over an extended period of time, and not on what happens this week. His performance in Triple-A has been consistent and effective, but his opportunity to stick in the majors will be made entirely on the basis of a minuscule statistical sample of a few moments in time.

Jason Simontacchi is a paisan's paisan. He pitched in Triple-A for the Twins last year, for Italy in the Olympics in 2000 after pitching in the Italian leagues, he's pitched in the Frontier League, and he's been cut by the Royals and Pirates organizations (forgive me, I thought we'd work our way from top to bottom). Like Richard Pryor on the mound in the otherwise completely lamentable Brewster's Millions, he did pretty good against a big-league team for a day. Given the level of desperation in these parts, he'll get a chance to show he didn't immediately revert to pumpkindom, because no matter how hard up the Cards might be for starting pitching, they shouldn't be so hard up that they need ever consider reactivating Andy Benes. Believe me when I say I derive absolutely no satisfaction in seeing the Cardinals press Bud Smith into action to mollify the sense of panic that seems to always seems on the verge of setting in on a LaRussa club that isn't winning.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Activated RHP Kevin Jarvis from the DL; placed RHP Matt DeWitt on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder). [5/4]

Recalled RHP Andy Shibilo from Mobile (Double-A); optioned RHP Ben Howard to Mobile. [5/8]

Returned RHP Kevin Jarvis to the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Dennis Tankersley from Mobile (Double-A). [5/10]

Kevin Jarvis's temporary return put the Padres in a bit of a temporary roster inconvenience, because one of Ben Howard or Brian Tollberg had to be out of the rotation to make space for Jarvis. Tollberg, whatever his mechanical conceits, was the better option of the moment, which the Padres have grudgingly acknowledged. Temporarily losing Matt DeWitt briefly preserved Howard on the roster. Although Jason Boyd is something less than reliable, he's only the mop-up man, and the Pads have been getting good work out of their primary relief quartet of Trevor Hoffman, Steve Reed, Jeremy Fikac, and lefty Alan Embree. Boyd can finish up lost causes and prove he's worth the roster spot. Howard had an opportunity to claim a long-relief role, but a grisly initial outing on the heels of an ugly start made a pretty good case that he's up too soon.

Andy Shibilo's promotion highlights a couple of issues to my mind. First, what a great vehicle the indy leagues are, because of the opportunities they create for guys like Shibilo. He doesn't have a dominant pitch, and he might have been overlooked as the tenth man on a minor-league staff if he had even gotten signed in the first place. But coming over after being successful in the indies, he got put into a high-leverage relief ace job that got him innings and attention beyond a simple closer's role. Second, it reflects well on the Padres, in that they're the organization in baseball most willing to take a look at indy leaguers instead of getting too wrapped up in blowing space on the 40-man roster on hard-throwing high-school picks years before they ever figure anything out, assuming that they ever do. Third, because of that, it sort of calls into question why the minors are structured the way they are, or why it's in the best interests of major league baseball to operate so many minor-league affiliates or have so many minor league players under contract. As Shibilo (or Tollberg) represents, why not save some development money and see who does well on some indy league operator's dime?

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Placed UT-R Shawon Dunston on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/6 (strained rib); purchased the contract of CF-L Tom Goodwin from Fresno. [5/7]

I don't know what's more frightening, the notion that the Giants could miss Shawon Dunston, or that they might have found someone even less qualified than Hosken Powell to beat out Tsuyoshi Shinjo for playing time in center field. Tom Goodwin? Where are those rushed, unready kids that expansion baseball is supposed to give us in such quantity?

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Placed RHP Paul Abbott on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/6 (shoulder inflammation); purchased the contract of RHP Julio Mateo from Tacoma; recalled RHP Justin Kaye from Tacoma; optioned LHP Brian Fitzgerald to Tacoma; designated RHP Wascar Serrano for assignment. [5/7]

Placed RHP Jeff Nelson on the 15-day DL (elbow); recalled RHP Rafael Soriano from San Antonio (Double-A); outrighted RHP Wascar Serrano to Tacoma. [5/8]

Extended the contract of RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki through 2004, with an option for 2005. [5/11]

Losing Jeff Nelson for a month and a half or so is never good news, but if he's ready for the stretch and the postseason, then the Mariners just have to take a page from the Yankees' playbook and focus on having him ready then. Besides, is missing him even a loss in the context of 162 games, when you have as much pitching talent as the Mariners? That they could blandly bring up a talented young trio of hard-throwing relievers as good as Justin Kaye, Julio Mateo, and Rafael Soriano just doesn't seem fair. While other organizations have to get excited about people like Guillermo Mota or Luis Vizcaino (both of whom are worth getting excited about, to be sure), the Mariners seem to have guys that good lying around like cordwood. Clearly, this makes it that much easier to ditch any Weaver scripting for Joel Pineiro and just put him into the rotation. That will make a huge difference come the postseason, because the Mariners are better off not relying too heavily on Jamie Moyer or James Baldwin. They need Pineiro to be that reliable second starter behind Chief Garcia, the guy who lets them go toe-to-toe with the Yankees (or whoever) in a short series.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Released 3B-R Bobby Smith; recalled 3B-R Jared Sandberg from Durham. [5/8]

You can't really blame the Devil Fishes for deciding they've had all the Bobby Smith they can stand, which goes a long way towards explaining the otherwise bizarro fascination with Jared Sandberg. At 24, he's not particularly likely to get extraordinarily better. He's not really a prospect as much as somebody who might grow up to be an adequate regular, sort of a new riff on a David Bell theme. I'd rather try to score some runs with Russ Johnson, but Johnson is already 29, and it's worth remembering that Keith Lockhart is the exception, not the rule, about how well-qualified minor-league infielders turn out when given overdue opportunities.

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Granted RHP Dan Miceli his unconditional release. [5/6]

Placed OF-B Carl Everett on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/5 (strained calf); optioned RHP Rob Bell to Oklahoma; recalled RHP Francisco Cordero and OF-R Kevin Mench from Oklahoma. [5/8]

Optioned RHP Joaquin Benoit to Oklahoma; recalled CF-R Jason Romano from Oklahoma. [5/11]

Carl Everett probably should have started the year on the DL, considering the obvious question of whether or not he's physically able to perform any feature of a major-league position player's job. With him out of the way, the Rangers are starting to field a genuinely solid team. The outfield has plenty of hitting to go around, Calvin Murray was an important addition defensively, and Michael Young is now playing second base on an everyday basis. With Juan Gonzalez due back shortly, they should be able to get Rusty Greer out of an everyday role and into an outfield rotation that lets Murray, Gabe Kapler, Kevin Mench, and Frank Catalanotto share playing time, although with Hank Blalock's demotion, Catalanotto may start getting some playing time at third base.

It's the pitching staff that is especially encouraging. Joaquin Benoit and Rob Bell both looked good in their brief trials in the rotation. If the Rangers are in it at the end of July, those effective peeks at playing time will make them marketable commodities if John Hart decides to go for broke. Alternatively, if the Rangers are out of it by the trading deadline, they deserve to feel a little more confident about the result if they deal a veteran starter or two and bring Bell or Benoit back. If anything, that would be a situation where the Rangers could "give up," deal free agent-to-be Kenny Rogers or dump a Dave Burba, and wind up stronger down the stretch. It's an intriguing knife-edge on which to rest, which is another reason why the Rangers are one of the most interesting organizations to follow this year.

As for Danny Miceli, looks like another one of John Hart's multiple roster mulligans bites the dust. Not that Tom Hicks is keeping score at home, or is likely to dock Hart's pay the amount over the minimum it cost to have Miceli around.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Claimed RHP Pete Walker off of waivers from the Mets. [5/3]

Optioned RHP Scott Cassidy to Syracuse; added Walker to the active roster. [5/4]

Placed LF-R Shannon Stewart on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/1 (strained hamstring); repurchased the contract of 1B/LF-R Brian Lesher from Syracuse; transferred RHP Steve Parris from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/7]

Placed C-L Darrin Fletcher on the 15-day disabled list; designated 2B-R Homer Bush for assignment; recalled RHP Scott Cassidy from Syracuse; purchased the contract of C-R Ken Huckaby from Syracuse. [5/8]

Placed 2B-R Homer Bush on waivers, releasing him unconditionally. [5/10]

This just isn't the Blue Jays' six weeks, is it now? J.P. Ricciardi's two most tradable commodities going into the season were Chris Carpenter and Shannon Stewart, and he's lost both of them at the same time as the team went into the tank in the early going. This is particularly poorly timed because the bad start would have provided worthwhile cover for a deal or two, and that opportunity doesn't exist as long as the players are hurt. With the likelihood of a shortened season, the opportunity may not exist in the future either. So the contingencies of how much more building the Jays can do this season just got whittled down from a pretty broad menu of choices to hoping somebody somewhere gets silly and asks after Raul Mondesi.

The Jays are pretty hard-up for somebody who can just eat innings and who isn't another conversion project or kid. Pete Walker is essentially just that, and while a few good months in that role can produce a Trombleyesque bonanza, for the time being it's just valuable for the Jays to have somebody who can toss two or three innings after what seems like another Prokopec massacre. Scott Eyre hasn't been good for even that, and the Jays' shortage of right-handed arms in the pen creates that much more pressure for having somebody like Walker around.

What's not especially surprising is the release of Homer Bush. Look, the argument about what constitutes replacement level is all over the place, from sensible approaches (as I happen to think Keith Woolner's is in this year's edition of Baseball Prospectus) to sillier ones that involve saying Tommy Thevenow, my dog, and Gary Gaetti (as a pitcher) all deserve partial credit for a ballclub's success.

On a more practical level, the Blue Jays have this exactly right: Bush is the kind of player you can acquire and discard easily enough. Homer Bush-level talents are wandering around all over the place, and he has a hard time being demonstrably more valuable than Dave Berg. Homer Bush is a useful player on a team with a strong lineup that just needs someone to hold the position in the absence of any alternatives. The Jays, however, have an alternative: they need to evaluate what the future holds for Joe Lawrence. He's a better offensive prospect than Bush was ever going to be, and although years of his career were wasted on Gord Ash's bizarre obsession with turning a good hitter who started off as a shortstop into a catcher, he should be able to handle second. If Lawrence has a future on the 25- or 40-man rosters, he has to be looked at right now, before Orlando Hudson arrives. If there's a lesson to be derived from all of this, it isn't that Bush is worthless: he's good enough to be one an adequate regular at second in the major leagues. The lesson to be derived instead is that Dave Littlefield was crazy to hand Pokey Reese a big multi-year contract significantly over the major-league minimum.

Lastly, I apologize for the late delivery and lack of depth in much of the commentary. I've been on the road most of the last three weeks, and I needed to catch up before getting back to your regular thrice-weekly TA schedule in its usual depth. Thanks to everyone for bearing with me.

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


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