Transaction Analysis, August 28-September 3, 2002

by Chris Kahrl

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ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Activated OF-Rs Tim Salmon and Julio Ramirez and LHP Dennis Cook from the DL; recalled LHP Mark Lukasiewicz from Salt Lake. [9/1]

Most of this is a case of the cavalry riding in just in time to discover that the Indians jumped out ahead and built PanzerArmee Lakota. The Angels have nothing to be ashamed of, coming off of an August where they went 18-11. They just got blown away by the most amazing steamroller the game's seen in modern history.

The Angels are nevertheless in the driver's seat for the wild-card. They aren't really at full-strength yet, especially since Tim Salmon isn't fully ready to roll. Fortunately, they've got the next two series against the Devil Rays and the Orioles before entering a stretch where they'll have play eight of their next eleven games against Oakland. You have to think the guys in green and gold will have rubbed away the midget's belly by that time, don'cha?

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Activated PH-L Chris Donnels and RHP Mike Morgan from the DL; recalled C-R Rod Barajas and RHP John Patterson from Tucson; purchased the contract of OF-R Mark Little from Tucson. [9/1]

None of this is going to compensate for the three games the Dodgers have picked up in the last several days. Donnels is a pinch-hitter, Barajas the loser in the clash of the puny for the job of backup catcher, and Mike Morgan is the mop-up man for those blowouts you'll get from any third through fifth slots in a rotation. Frankly, before his participation in the 19-run game, Rick Helling was going good, and Brian Anderson's been doing well too. Miguel Batista's value should really be in the pen come October, which is another way of saying that Morgan's a temp, even in the long relief role. So all in all, this isn't help, it's recycled meat.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Purchased the contracts of RHP Trey Hodges and INF-PR Jesse Garcia from Richmond; recalled RHP Kevin Gryboski and C-R Steve Torrealba from Richmond. [9/2]

Designated Kiwi-R Travis Wilson for assignment. [9/3]

Straight off of the assembly line, the Braves have cranked out yet another good-looking young pitcher. Although Hodges starred at LSU (winning the final game of the 2000 College World Series) before being drafted in 2000, he was never going to impress people with his velocity. But skipping past Double-A to pitch in Richmond this summer, he won 15 games for the second year running, while posting a 3.19 ERA, allowing 158 hits and 55 walks in 172.1 IP to go with only nine homeruns allowed and 116 strikeouts. He changes speeds effectively to set up a nifty slider. He also has no chance of being a Braves starter if the other half-dozen guys already in the majors hang around this winter. Given the way so many ex-Braves starter prospects seem to perform as ex-Braves, Hodges has to hope he doesn't wind up as the next Dave Nied or Micah Bowie or Joey Nation or Ruben Quevedo. Certainly John Schuerholz winds up looking like the original witch doctor, but that only underscores the more basic point, which is that talented young pitching can wind up being young ex-talent pretty quickly.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Activated RHP Sidney Ponson from the 15-day DL. [9/1]

Recalled RHP Steve Bechler, 1B/3B-R Jose Leon and OF-L Larry Bigbie from Rochester; recalled OF-R Luis Matos and SS-R Eddie Rogers from Bowie (Double-A). [9/3]

Now that Ponson is back, the Orioles have an interesting dilemma as far as what they should do with their rotation. They've demonstrated that they can play .490 ball if things go their way. But they aren't going to get any further than that relying on Scott Erickson. They're already stuck with him for 2003. Assuming they don't have the gumption to eat the contract outright, what they need to see is who from among their bevy of young pitchers can compete for the rotation for next year, and whether or not enough of them are ready that they can make an informed choice about trading or dumping Erickson.

Clearly, Rodrigo Lopez, Ponson, and Jason Johnson have earned the work. John Stephens deserves further review, while Travis Driskill should be bumped to the pen--he's an option after others fail. So with one rotation slot left, do you hand it to Erickson because he's expensive, or do you take a look at Rick Bauer or Sean Douglass? My biases are pretty clear, I'd rather take a look at the devils you don't know than revisit ol' Scratch to see him stick a pitchfork into you one night out of five.

Meanwhile, on the 'prospect' front, even the few guys that the Orioles had the temerity to brag about fizzled this summer. Larry Bigbie had an awful season (.302/.363/.397, so no power, and only 28 walks of his own in 388 plate appearances), Ed Rogers celebrated a few birthdays to throttle the last gasps out of his prospectdom, and Steve Bechler did nothing to bring those inspired comparisons ("he throws righty, you know") to Curt Schilling. Bringing all of them up does highlight the nature of the organization's core problem: flirting with .500 is nothing to be proud or ashamed of, it just isn't a goal in itself. To build an organization that can build on any kind of success, you need a thoroughgoing farm system, and the Orioles still haven't given any indication that they have one.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Recalled RHP Wayne Gomes from Pawtucket. [9/1]

Recalled OF-R Benny Agbayani, 3B-R Shane Andrews, SS/2B-R Freddy Sanchez and RHP Josh Hancock from Pawtucket. [9/2]

Wayne Gomes, Willie Banks, or Dustin Hermanson, does it really matter how many mop-up men are lingering around the back end of the bullpen? Fortunately, the Red Sox have a solid trio up front in Uggy Urbina, Bobby Howry and Alan Embree. But with the Western trio pulling ahead and the Yankees still capering about in front with their usual braggadocio, does it matter?

Luckily for the Beantowners, they have a ridiculously light schedule in September (not a single winning team do they have to face), so if they want to, they have the opportunity for a late rally back to relevance.

Two prospects deserve mention, since they should both be in the picture for next season's Sox squad. Freddy Sanchez gets mentioned as the team's second baseman of the future, but it's more of a worthwhile default and a sensible cost-cutting measure; he's perfectly capable of being an offensive upgrade on Rey Sanchez, since he'll probably hit in the .280-.290 range, draw more walks than Sanchez, and past thirty doubles if you give him 500 plate appearances. Josh Hancock has a chance to be an asset in the bullpen and eventually as a fifth starter. He was uncharacteristically wild in Pawtucket after showing his usual fine control in a repeat engagement with Trenton, but he throws in the low 90s and spots a nice curve. If he masters changing speeds, he can be an asset as a starter, but there's no shame in becoming a good reliever on a team that could use a good right-handed reliever.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Purchased the contract of CF-B Joe Borchard from Charlotte; recalled RHP Jon Rauch from Charlotte. [9/2]

Joe Borchard is the third man in the team's long-term outfield plans, joining Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee in the corners. There are still questions about whether or not he's the long-term center fielder, however. He arrives after having hit .272/.349/.498. Did he resolve his strikezone judgment issues this year? Not exactly, since he's still striking out just under 30% of the time. However, that remains a fixable problem, and since he brings moderate patience and good power, he's an asset. He'll get September to win the job for next April, competing against theoretical free agent alternatives who will only get considered if he looks awful right now.

How long that outfield alignment lasts, on the other hand, is a good question, since the Sox have been shopping Lee for most of the last year, and it's rumored they'd like to move him this winter. Aaron Rowand has done a decent job in the lineup since becoming a regular after Kenny Lofton was traded away, so if Lee gets moved, there's a chance that Rowand and Jeff Liefer could share the third job in the outfield. A Liefer-Borchard-Ordonez outfield won't win many friends on the pitching staff, however.

The more basic problem is this: if you're going to shop Carlos Lee and you're the White Sox, what do you need? Pitching, yes, but that's about it. The infield is set, and in the outfield, it isn't likely that you're going to get a great outfielder in his prime for Lee. Would you want to upgrade on Mark Johnson and Josh Paul behind plate? Arguably, but what team is looking to dump a catcher good enough for you to want? (Easy answer: the Marlins with Ramon Castro, but it shouldn't take Lee to pry Castro loose.) So that means you want pitching, and again, what do you expect to land with Lee? And with Kenny Williams doing the shopping? Color me less than optimistic about how this is going to work out for the Sox.

Jon Rauch comes back up after having a good second half in Charlotte. His overall numbers aren't awe-inspiring: 4.9 runs per nine allowed, with 90 hits and 40 walks allowed in 109.1 IP, with 97 strikeouts. But since getting his early-season kinks worked out, he's been one of the most effective starters in the International League over the last two months. He'll step right into the Sox' rotation, since neither Gary Glover or Jim Parque are doing enough to hold onto the fourth and fifth starter's jobs.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Activated RHP Jason Bere from the DL; optioned RHP Carlos Zambrano to Iowa. [8/31]

Purchased the contract of RHP Pat Mahomes from Iowa; recalled C-R Mike Mahoney from Iowa. [9/1]

Placed RHP Mark Prior on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled LHP Steve Smyth from Iowa; released LHP Donovan Osborne. [9/2]

Recalled 1B-L Hee Seop Choi and RHP Carlos Zambrano from Iowa; purchased the contract of LHP Jesus Sanchez from Iowa; transferred RHP Jon Lieber from the 15- to 60-day DL; traded 3B-B Bill Mueller and cash to the Giants for RHP Jeff Verplancke; purchased the contract of 3B-R Kevin Orie. [9/3]

All of these moves really only boil down to a single worthwhile implication: the Cubs are about to try their 2003 infield on for size. Trading Bill Mueller creates the room to move Mark Bellhorn to third and let Bobby Hill slip in at second, while promoting Hee Choi should relegate Fred McGriff to the bench for the remainder of the season. There's no point in honoring McGriff with more playing time; he's a mercenary who's been a wee bit too transparently disinterested this summer, and considering how grudgingly he acceded to becoming an ex-Devil Ray, the Cubs shouldn't feel they owe him any favors. They're better off reviewing Choi to increase their own comfort level with tabbing him as their Opening Day 2003 first baseman. After the season he had with Iowa (.287/.406/.513), they should be ready; he is.

Otherwise, the Cubs get to doodle around what they want to do with their rotation for the rest of the season. Considering that Bruce Kimm has already demonstrated that he has no idea of how to balance his simultaneous responsibilities to the organization's future and present, this is not a good thing. He might make Carlos Zambrano his workhorse du jour, or he might work Kerry Wood into the ground. On the other hand, if he abuses Jason Bere, I doubt even Tommy Tanzer would care.

Just as Andy MacPhail's wangled a last chance for Pat Mahomes, Jim Hendry's giving the pride of his Creighton program, Alan Benes, a last chance in the Cubs' rotation. That's what this team has been reduced to, memories of aspiring mediocrity. They even brought Kevin Orie back, as a reminder of those precious times when they aspired to postseason speedbumpdom.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Placed RHP Brian Moehler on the 15-day DL (sore shoulder); recalled RHP Chris Reitsma from Chattanooga (Double-A). [8/28]

Activated UT-R Brandon Larson from the DL. [8/31]

Activated RHP Jose Silva from the DL. [9/1]

Recalled RHP Jared Fernandez from Louisville. [9/2]

I'm pretty unhappy about how things turned out for the Reds, since there's so much here to like and so much here that you have to turn a blind eye towards in order to keep your enthusiasm. But for all of the slings and brickbats being fired off in Ken Griffey's general direction, the team's millstones were Larkin and Casey. It might have been better if the Reds had been more aggressive in shoring up their rotation earlier in the summer, instead of winding up with overlapping pickups of Scuffy Moehler, Ryan Dempster, and Shawn Estes. If, instead, the Reds had entered the higher-ante sweepstakes and acquired just one quality starter (like Finley or Colon or even Paul Byrd) and stuck with Jared Fernandez in the fifth slot, they might have wound up hanging with the Cardinals for longer than they did. Instead, they incrementally acquired a lot of low-end starters for various smaller packages of goodies, and they got low-end contributions.

This is the danger of working with a Bowden-Boone management duo; they can operate quickly to come up with expedient solutions when the opportunities present themselves, but they fell short of supplying solutions to real problems. Instead of bold strokes, you got clever ones, in a minor key, and it wasn't anywhere close to enough.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed RHP Jason Phillips on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled RHP Jaret Wright from Buffalo. [8/28]

Activated CF-B Milton Bradley from the DL; optioned OF-B Covelli Crisp to Buffalo. [8/30]

Recalled RHP Dave Elder and OF-B Chris Magruder from Buffalo. [9/1]

Placed RHP Jake Westbrook on the 15-day DL (elbow), retroactive to 8/26; recalled RHP Roy Smith from Buffalo. [9/3]

Beyond getting Milton Bradley back (and Covelli Crisp's creditable spot duty in his absence), it would be hard to put a positive spin on anything going on with the Tribe. Maybe you can claim that the decision to bump Danys Baez back into the bullpen is a good thing, because it spares his arm, but to the organization's credit, the move to the rotation worked. This team desperately needs starting pitching, so Baez has to be in next year's rotation.

The problem has been made worse by the loss of Jason Phillips, so now you've got a rotation of C.C. Sabathia (who really could use the time in the pen to spare his elbow), Ricardo Rodriguez, and some randomly assembled combination of Dave Burba, Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, and Terry Mulholland, who between them have almost enough ligaments to go around.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Recalled OF(C)-R Ben Petrick and OF(2B)-R Jason Romano, 1B/OF-L Ross Gload, INF-R Jose Ortiz and LHP Randy Flores from Colorado Springs. [9/1]

There are some things here which reflect the perpetual indecision between interesting alternatives that have characterize Dan O'Dowd's Rockies. Is Ben Petrick an outfielder now? Is Jason Romano? What position is Jose Ortiz going to play?

This team needs a second baseman and it needs a catcher, but it may also need a center fielder and a left fielder. Jack Cust and perhaps Gabe Kapler are sort of one possible answer, but that's only left field. So what do you do at the other positions? Bobby Estalella may be part of the answer behind the plate in 2003, which sort of leaves Ben Petrick at loose ends, but the Rockies seem bereft of any idea about what they want to do with Petrick. If he's an outfielder, he isn't good enough to beat out Cust or Kapler. If he's a catcher, he might be frustrating to watch, but better to settle for that than forego finding a way to use him at all.

That leaves second and center. Neither Ortiz or Brent Butler has done anything to win the job at second; Jason Romano is potentially the answer at either second or center, but just as they have to make a decision and stick with it in Petrick's case, they need to make a similar choice with Romano. Here, the calculus ought to be whether or not Ortiz or Butler can outhit Jay Payton or Juan Pierre, and placing Romano wherever the losers reside. Given that I'd rather take a chance on Ortiz' up-side than Payton's adequacy, I'd try to stick with the experiment of making Romano a center fielder.

Which all sounds nice and decisive, right? Now try to put yourself in O'Dowd's shoes. Nobody's really hitting among all of these guys, so he has no easy, defensible answer suggesting itself to any of these problems. This is where either cogent performance analysis of the players' performance and quality scouting is supposed to give you the kind of information with which to make an informed decision, but the Rockies seem committed to overlapping and mutually exclusive wishcasts that keep them actually getting to the decision part of the program.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Acquired OF-R Gary Varner from the Reds as one of two PTBNLs in the Moehler trade. [8/30]

Activated SS-B Ramon Santiago from the DL. [9/1]

Recalled LHP Andy Van Hekken from Toledo. [9/3]

Varner now goes by the name "Noochie," but whatever, the guy named Varner was hitting .310/.355/.467 and had swiped 37 bases in 41 attempts for Dayton. So he has power, speed, and he makes good contact, not a bad guy to have picked up considering he's only 21. Of course, name changes like this will only cause trouble. What's next, Dookie Zumsteg?

The happier development is getting Ramon Santiago back. He may not fend off Omar Infante next season, but at least either of them can actually play shortstop. Shane Halter has been a disaster, and it's amazing to see that Luis Pujols has been willing to so disinterestedly maintain a charade inherited from Phil Garner and Randy Smith. Although losing Santiago to injury didn't help, between Halter and Damian Jackson, it's amazing that Halter has kept reflexively getting tabbed.

Calling up Andy Van Hekken might seem a bit premature. A high school lefty picked by the Mariners in 1998 and stolen from them in the laughable Brian (Speedy) Hunter deal in 1999, Van Hekken isn't a hard thrower, but he throws strikes and wins games, and the Tigers can use both of those things. He did struggle for the first time in Erie this summer, going 4-7 while allowing 4.6 runs per nine, but the SeaWolves were the worst team in the Eastern League, and went through most of the season with an unsettled/bad infield. Promoted to Toledo, a better club with some offense and better interior defense, he went 5-0 in seven starts, and allowing only 2.5 runs per nine.

At 23, Van Hekken shouldn't be pushed too hard by a Tigers team that has nothing to gain by overusing him. He's already pitched 183.1 innings this year, so making him work for much longer in September seems a bit dicey. Naturally, Luis Pujols didn't care a whit, since he saw Van Hekken throwing strikes and getting what's left of the Indians out, and he hasn't gotten much of that from his other pitchers this summer. Hopefully, the Tigers will stop short of treating Van Hekken as this September's Mark Fidrych.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Extended the contract of UT-L Andy Fox through 2003. [8/31]

Recalled RHP Gary Knotts, 2B/OF-R Pablo Ozuna and OF-B Abraham Nunez from Calgary; purchased the contracts of Justin Wayne and UT-B Brian Banks from Calgary; released 2B-R Homer Bush. [9/1]

How much do the Marlins not know what they're doing? They promoted Justin Wayne early, before he had to be added to the 40-man roster, and without his earning it. Although he initially looks pretty good on the basis of how he pitched for Harrisburg before being traded over to the Marlins organization in the Floyd deal, that was because only 26 of his 41 runs allowed were earned. After the deal, he "struggled" with Portland, struggled with Calgary, and got promoted because the Marlins merc braintrust remembers him from when they drafted him when they were all Expos. He isn't a bad young pitcher, but you don't get to be called a prospect on the basis of a 87:51 strikeout to walk ratio in 152.2 IP.

Elsewhere, there isn't much here. Gary Knotts spent the season pitching in relief for Calgary. After seeing a couple of summers fly by him this summer, Pablo Ozuna has abandoned his shortstopdom and now perhaps second to spend time in the outfield this summer; he was hitting .326/.371/.475. Brian Banks can't really catch in anything more than an emergency, but he does come up after hitting .306/.408/.535; he won't do anything like that in the majors, but there are worse people winning "last man on the bench" jobs.

The real disappointment is Abraham Nunez, who arrives after only hitting .250/.329/.477 at Calgary. He can walk, he can run, and he can throw, but not a lot of people who hit .250 in the PCL, either today's less combustible edition or your daddy's jacktastic free-for-all, are going to cut it in the majors.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Scott Linebrink to New Orleans. [8/28]

Acquired INF-R Mark Loretta and cash from the Brewers for two PTBNLs. [8/31]

Recalled C-R Raul Chavez and RHPs Brad Lidge and Brandon Puffer from New Orleans; purchased the contract of LHP Jeriome Robertson from New Orleans. [9/1]

Getting Mark Loretta is one of those timorous stretch-drive adds that doesn't really add up to much. Mark Loretta's veterandom is an asset on some level to the sorts of mindsets that care about that sort of thing, but those same people also fret about postseason experience, which Loretta has as much of as anybody who's been a career Brewer in the '90s.

The key to this move is that Loretta can play short, second and third, and that's useful as far as giving them an alternative to Jose Vizcaino or Adam Everett or Geoff Blum if you're also worried about Craig Biggio's decline. I would have stuck with Everett for his defense, since Loretta doesn't exactly offer much punch himself these days, but then if I was running the Astros instead of chiding them, Morgan Ensberg would have never been sent down in the first place. Also keep in mind that I'd identify Vizcaino as someone who can go pumpkin on you at any moment, since if he doesn't keep spraying singles over the infield, he doesn't contribute any other way offensively, and adding Mark Loretta just gives you another guy who really needs to murdilate a few worm-killers to add anything to your lineup. Roster flexibility is nice, but so would a good offensive player at third, reducing the number of positions that Jimy Williams has to fiddle with to just short and the non-Berkman outfield slots.

Elsewhere, the outlandish Oswalt suspension helped the Cardinals by giving Jeriome Robertson a start. The question is whether the Astros could have done better, since starting an organizational soldier like Robertson against Alex Rodriguez and the Rangers had to seem like a desperate idea, relying on the Rangers' terrible record against lefties. Sure, it made more sense than going with the (very) available Dave Mlicki or Nelson Cruz, but they had another option: spotting Brad Lidge.

Lidge at least has talent, and this year he's finally produced the facsimile of a healthy season, making nineteen starts for the Zephyrs, posting a 3.39 ERA while giving up only 83 hits in 111.2 IP, walking 47 and striking out 110. Since the entire game devolved into a shared "pen start" where Williams ended up using everyone from the back end of the bullpen as well as Ricky Stone, it might have made more sense to actually try to make a game of it and win or lose with Lidge.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS Return to Top

Optioned RHP Ryan Bukvich to Wichita (Double-A). [8/28]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Activated OF-R Brian Jordan, INF-R Jeff Reboulet and RHP Giovanni Carrara from the DL; recalled C-R David Ross, 2B-L Joe Thurston, OF-R Wilkin Ruan and LHP Jeff Williams from Las Vegas. [9/1]

Almost everyone here has been on the roster at some point or another, in roles significant (like Jordan) to minor (like Williams or Reboulet). Nevertheless, Reboulet might end up on the postseason roster, although it might be to have him around to play second instead of short, considering how feeble Mark Grudzielanek is getting as the season drags on.

Sadly, Joe Thurston is not an option since he came up after September 1st. He's probably the most advanced of the Dodgers' few hitting prospects, but that doesn't mean much given the absence of alternatives. He comes up after hitting .334/.372/.506 at Vegas, but drawing only 24 walks on his own in over 630 plate appearances isn't really exciting. He does carry a good rep with the glove, but the Dodgers need to replace Grudz's bat more than they need to fret over interior defense.

For that reason, among others, Jordan's return to the active roster will hopefully stick. Getting Marquis Grissom into the lineup every day has had predictable results, as Grissom's numbers have dropped as he started facing more and more right-handed pitching. Although Jim Tracy's collection of pinch-hitters and spare parts can make up for the weaker hitters in the infield or in high-leverage pinch-hitting situations, they can't play the outfield regularly, so the Dodgers really do need Jordan to be able to contribute.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Acquired OF-B Chris Morris and a PTBNL from the Cardinals for RHP Jamey Wright and cash. [8/29]

Purchased the contract of RHP David Pember from Huntsville (Double-A). [8/30]

Traded INF-R Mark Loretta and cash to the Astros for two PTBNLs. [8/31]

Purchased the contract of RHP Ben Diggins from Huntsville (Double-A); recalled SS-R Bill Hall from Indianapolis. [9/1]

Recalled OF-R Ryan Christenson from Indianapolis. [9/2]

Acquired LHP Wayne Franklin and 2B/OF-R Keith Ginter from the Astros to complete the Loretta trade; purchased the contract of OF-L Jim Rushford from Indianapolis; placed LHP Shane Nance on the 60-day DL (torn biceps tendon); released C-B Raul Casanova. [9/3]

There's a consistent theme here: it's Dean Taylor doing what he can to show that he deserves to keep his job. Billy Hall comes up as the most over-touted Brewers suspect on the heels of an appallingly bad Triple-A season (.228/.272/.301), where he got the same number of extra-base hits and walks (25 apiece) in 500 plate appearances. Hall's struggles with the bat were predictable, given that his entire reputation for prospectery relied on hitting well in High Desert. You would have thought that this particular organization would have learned something from the example of Matt Mieske on the subject of High Desert hitting stats, but apparently not. He's considered a toolsy defender, but he booted another 41 balls this year after 40+ error seasons in 2000 and 2001, and there's nothing in his peripheral defensive stats to suggest he's actually any good with leather. But here he is.

Similarly, Ben Diggins has little business being here. He's being rushed on the strength of seven starts with Huntsville (1.91 ERA, 34 strikeouts in 37.2 IP), but his earlier struggles in the Florida State League (over 4.25 runs allowed per nine) should have made it plain he shouldn't be here just yet. A responsible organization wouldn't be pushing him up to get a month's worth of big league starts.

Dave Pember comes up after being a rotation stalwart for Huntsville, winning ten games while giving up around four runs per nine IP. He allowed 157 hits in 156 IP, with a 111:52 strikeout to walk ratio, and thirteen wild pitches; at least he resembles somebody who should be up now.

As for the loose change that Taylor received for dumping Jamey Wright and Mark Loretta, you could say he got value. Chris Morris only hit .249/.348/.299 in the Carolina League, so he isn't even a poor man's Alex Sanchez just yet. The inevitable comparisons to Billy North or Dave Collins or whoever will be made, since Morris is a flyer who can cover the gaps and steal bases, but he's already 23, and he's going to have to get better in a hurry to be a major league asset. Wayne Franklin is your typical lefty waiver bait, potentially useful, easily replaceable.

Keith Ginter has been a disappointment since his great year in Round Rock in 2000, and the Astros screwed around with playing him in the outfield or third, but with the Brewers, he really should be considered a second baseman who will allow them to peddle Eric Young (fat chance on finding takers) and perhaps Ronnie Belliard (who they've reduced to near-worthlessness by not playing him). But Ginter is the sort of player the Brewers should be taking a chance on, on that off chance that he winds up being a poor man's Jeff Kent. Between getting him and promoting indy league refugee and minor league hitting machine Jim Rushford, that's about all the good news there is here.

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Activated LHP Eric Milton from the DL. [9/2]

Sure enough, Milton didn't get much in the way of extended rehab time, so the Twins will have to work him carefully up to speed to have him ready for October. Ron Gardenhire did exactly that in Milton's first start, and Milton freaked out about it, so hopefully this is one of those things that Milton will sort out on his way to his first-ever postseason start. Gardenhire, to his credit, underscored the basic fact of life, which is that if Milton had a problem with this, he should take it up with Gardenhire, and not the fourth estate.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Recalled CF-L Endy Chavez and RHPs Sun-Woo Kim and Tim Drew from Ottawa. [9/2]

Endy Chavez is just a pinch-runner and fifth outfielder, and Tim Drew still isn't fooling anybody (72 strikeouts in 181 IP?), so the name of note in this group is the return to the majors of Sunny Kim. Kim continued his successful pitching from his stint in the PawSox rotation, finishing the International League season with a 7-3 record, allowing only 63 hits and 32 walks in 89 IP, with 65 strikeouts. Seeing that this is Kim's first flirtation with success at any level, depending on your point of view you can take this to be either anomalous or a positive development, but either way he's worth the Expos taking a look-see to find out if they got anything close to big-league ready in exchange for Cliff Floyd.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Recalled OF-R Juan Rivera from Columbus; optioned RHP Mike Thurman to Columbus. [8/31]

Recalled LHP Randy Choate and re-purchased the contract of C-R Alberto Castillo from Columbus; released RHP Brett Jodie. [9/1]

Recalled RHPs Brandon Knight and Mike Thurman and 3B-R Drew Henson from Columbus; activated 1B-L Nick Johnson from the DL. [9/3]

Tip your cap to Brian Cashman and company: they might be parading through the regular season, but they didn't skip the small stuff as far as postseason roster design, making Juan Rivera available. Otherwise, they've got Nick Johnson back to handle the DH duties again, and they have to hope he goes back to the hot hitting he was providing just before heading to the DL.

As for the Drew Henson Era, don't hold your breath waiting in anticipation. He hit only .240/.301/.435 this year, while not walking much, striking out a ton, and basically giving reason to only consider a much better version of Josh Booty. It might not be a bad idea to convince Robin Ventura to play more than a single season in pinstripes.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Recalled INF-R Marco Scutaro, C-R Jason Phillips, RHPs Satoru Komiyama and Tyler Walker, and LHP Pedro Feliciano from Norfolk. [9/1]

Purchased the contract of OF/PR-B Esix Snead from Binghamton (Double-A). [9/2]

Recalled INF-R Ty Wigginton from Norfolk. [9/3]

This is a modestly interesting group of call-ups, some of whom we've all seen before as Steve Phillips constantly re-shuffles to keep his keep his shuffling skills up to snuff. Both Wigginton and Scutaro can be assets as utility infielders, and either one of them wouldn't kill you as your regular at second base if you have a half-dozen better players in the lineup. Pedro Feliciano is the lefty who came over from the Reds; between Chattanooga, Louisville and Norfolk, he's allowed ~3.75 runs per nine IP, while giving up 82 hits and 15 walks in 74.1 IP, and striking out 56.

The recycled material is interesting enough, but the Mets have other guys to look at as well. They already have a solid backup catcher in Vance Wilson, so having Jason Phillips is sort of excessive, although Wilson and Phillips give them a dangerously tempting alternative behind the plate that might lead to moving Mike Piazza to first. At Norfolk this year, Phillips hit .282/.327/.477. He's about to turn 26, so his future is now. It's somewhat surprising that he wasn't packaged in any of the Mets' desperation moves, so on some level this might be a credit to Steve Phillips for keeping one of his few prospects handy.

Another interesting call-up is Tyler Walker, since he also looks useful: a 3.99 ERA, 152 hits and 35 walks allowed in 142 IP, with 109 strikeouts. Since converting from a college career as a reliever, he's been up and down, losing most of 2001 to a torn labrum. This was his bounce-back year, and it looks like he still has decent velocity and command. He could pretty easily turn out to be the new Pete Walker, which is handy.

Finally, we come upon baseball's original basesneetcher, Esix Snead, the cat with the flat bat. By his own lights, hitting .252/.335/.327 was a pretty good year, and he once again flashed the speed that has rotoheads drooling, swiping 66 bases while getting caught 18 times. Snead can also bunt, giving himself up sixteen times. People might almost think he's looking good because he drew 45 walks this year, except that over 470 PA that falls short of being good enough to start thinking of Snead as somebody who will grow up to be a regular. He's still in the same territory he was always in, which ranges from Miguel Dilone to Rodney McCray. That's better than Herb Washington, and well short of John Cangelosi.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Mike Fyhrie from Sacramento. [9/1]

So what does a guy say in this situation? "I'm behind you guys, every step of the way"? "Go team, we really showed'em"? I don't know if there would be a cooler experience in the game right now than to be part of the green & gold gang.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Activated 1B-B Dave Hollins from the 60-day DL; recalled LHP Hector Mercado from Scranton Wilkes-Barre. [9/1]

No mere spider is going to keep Dave Hollins from his grim drive to accumulate a few more at-bats. He's two hits away from 870, and three steals away from 50. That should get him into the King of Prussia, PA Sports Hall of Fame, and it says volumes about the organization's compassion and sense of charity that they're willing to give an aging carmine-kiestered member of the '93 almost-something Phillies that one final lap, when they could be frittering those moments away on someone who might matter in 2003.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Activated LHP Ron Villone from the DL; recalled RHP Salomon Torres from Nashville. [9/1]

Recalled RHPs Sean Lowe and Duaner Sanchez and C-R Humberto Cota from Nashville; recalled OF-Rs Tony Alvarez and J.J. Davis from Altoona (Double-A); purchased the contract of OF-B Adrian Brown from Nashville; designated 2B/SS-R Tomas de la Rosa for assignment. [9/3]

There isn't much to say here that I haven't said before. Sean Lowe and Duaner Sanchez can both be useful relievers, Adrian Brown can be a useful fourth or fifth outfielder on a team that has maybe one and a half outfielders. None of the prospects are coming up into situations where they have shots at starting jobs for Opening Day 2003, but each of them have opportunities to work their way into the picture at some point next season.

Humberto Cota only hit .267/.321/.406 at Nashville, although at 23 he might still end up becoming a good caddy. Tony Alvarez hit .318/.361/.483, which looks pretty good, but he's going to have to improve on drawing 26 walks in 548 plate appearances if he's going to hit enough to stick as a corner outfielder. He can play in center, but he's not considered good at it.

More promising is J.J. Davis. Although he's not really living up to the promise he held as a eighth pick overall in the 1997 draft, he hit well enough this year to dispel comparisons to Earl Cunningham. Hitting .287/.351/.526 in a return engagement with Altoona at 23 is the best news his career has had to date, but he's still a long way off from taking over in one of the corners.

Finally, Salomon Torres is (as always) intriguing as a bottom of the rotation starter. At Nashville this year, he showed outstanding command, posting a 136:37 strikeout to walk ratio in 162.1 IP while allowing ~4.3 runs per nine, and giving up 169 hits and only a dozen homeruns. If Jose Rijo can come back, why not Salomon Torres? On the other hand, Torres would have to have been really good first to really being considered a comeback, right? His career is one of those great shipwrecks we can ponder, a gleaming thing of onetime beauty on the seabottom, waiting to be dredged up and refloated. I'd give him the chance, and not just because of the memories of what he might have been for the Giants in the early '90s.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Activated RHP Garrett Stephenson from the 60-day DL; optioned RHP Gabe Molina to Memphis. [8/28]

Acquired RHP Jamey Wright and cash from the Brewers for OF-B Chris Morris and a PTBNL; activated RHP Woody Williams from the DL; optioned RHP Jason Simontacchi to Memphis. [8/29]

Designated RHP Nerio Rodriguez for assignment. [8/30]

Purchased the contract of 1B-L Ivan Cruz from Memphis; recalled RHP Matt Duff from New Haven (Double-A). [9/1]

Okay, some of this isn't happy, in that Jason Simontacchi has been given the roster equivalent of Rice-A-Roni for his time, and can consider himself uninvited for postseason purposes. Jamey Wright is, however, somebody with a good block of experience and talent, and generally speaking is the kind of pitcher you normally suspect that Dave Duncan might do some good work with. As pickups go, this isn't a bad one.

This time around, Garrett Stephenson won't stick in the rotation. It became obvious that he still isn't ready to give them five innings, so they've finally done what they should have done back in May, which is put him in the bullpen to see if he can build up any kind of arm strength. As a result, once Simontacchi can be re-added to the active roster, he'll take the fifth slot in the rotation behind Woody Williams, Andy Benes, Chuck Finley, and Wright. Happily, it does look like they let Williams gear up properly this time around, so that's only... what, one out of four times this season that they made the right decision about reactivating Williams and Stephenson?

Matt Morris should join the rotation at the start of the week, which will bump either Simontacchi or Wright. The patchwork only has to hold for three more weeks, after the Cardinals can take their chances in a NL postseason where nobody looks especially dominant.

I know it's probably just me, but the most interesting call-up here is the decision to bring up Ivan Cruz after he hit .280/.349/.566 with 35 homeruns in 518 PA as a Redbird. How much more expensive is Tino Martinez? And since El Tino is only outhitting veteran first basemen like Kevin Young, Sean Casey, Eric Karros and Travis Lee (and promising rookies Carlos Pena and Nick Johnson), is a guy who's only in the middle of the bottom third of first base regulars really what the Cardinals needed to spend $7 million per year for over the last three seasons? Especially when there are people like Ivan Cruz are hanging around?

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Claimed RHP Doug Nickle off of waivers from the Cardinals; designated LHP Jason Kershner for assignment. [8/28]

Activated RHP Adam Eaton from the 60-day DL; activated LHP Kevin Walker from the DL; released RHP Bobby J. Jones. [9/1]

Activated LHPs Bobby M. Jones and Oliver Perez from the DL. [9/2]

That's right, they cut the useful Bobby Jones, and kept the crummy one. I had to look twice to convince myself that this was the case, but sure enough, that is what happened. Yes, they had one Bobby Jones too many. Yes, Towers said they didn't think they would use Bobby Jones much for the rest of the season, which seems like an eminently reasonable proposition. But did he really mean the right-handed one? I don't who's more stunned, me or Bobby J. Do you think M. is phoning J. to ask who's laughing now?

Admittedly, the rotation is now full with their young talent, so the Pads are doing the right thing. Brett Tomko, Oliver Perez and Brian Lawrence are locked in, Jacob Peavy deserves his shot, and between Adam Eaton and Dennis Tankersley, the Pads have more than enough starters to look at with an eye towards 2003. It's just interesting that they elected to cut Bobby J. right now. Who knows, he might be a Cardinal in a few days.

I like a lot of what Kevin Towers does, but I'm not sure that I would make this particular exchange, dumping (and losing) Jason Kershner to add Doug Nickle. How can you wind up with the wrong ex-Phillies' farmhand? Nickle wasn't doing badly, allowing about 3.8 runs per nine as a reliever while giving up 71 hits and 19 walks in 76.1 IP; he's never been a flamethrower, evinced by his striking out 47. So why would you exchange a workmanlike minor league righthanded reliever for a potential asset as a lefty setup man? Especially when you don't have an effective portsider in the first place? As endorsements for the perpetually injured Kevin Walker go, that has to be a ringer.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Activated RHP Manny Aybar, OF-L Marvin Benard and UT-R Shawon Dunston from the DL; recalled LHP Aaron Fultz and OF-L Tony Torcato from Fresno; re-purchased the contract of LHP Troy Brohawn from Fresno. [9/1]

Acquired 3B-B Bill Mueller and cash from the Cubs for RHP Jeff Verplancke. [9/3]

Let me get this straight, the Giants are fighting for their October lives, and they just now get around to bringing in Bill Mueller? I'm usually the kind of guy who's half-full as opposed to half-empty, but why did Brian Sabean just now come around to noticing his club needs offensive help?

What's stranger still is that he picked up something he didn't really need. It isn't like having Mueller around is going to finally convince Dusty Baker to fix the lineup's most basic problem, and lock J.T. Snow in the woodshed. Mueller isn't going to chase David Bell to the bench. He isn't going to play third and move Bell to second so that Kent can play first, and get Snow benched. Baker's had the opportunity to replace Snow with Ramon Martinez in that scenario, and he won't, any more than he'll give more at-bats to Damon Minor at Snow's expense.

No, what the Giants got was a pinch-hitter. What's especially strange about the timing as far as adding Mueller is that it comes on the heels of getting Marvin Benard back, since they could definitely use Benard as an alternative to Reggie Sanders in right. So their bench isn't especially weak if they've got Benard and Minor and Martinez on it. They've even got a nifty pinch-runner in Tom Goodwin. Bill Mueller's just along for the Giants' ride, and that will only go, as always, as far as Barry Bonds can carry it. Which to Bonds' credit is as far as any player, anywhere, ever, could haul a team.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Activated INF-PR Luis Ugueto from the DL; recalled LHP John Halama and UT-R Willie Bloomquist from Tacoma. [9/1]

Willie Bloomquist has been something of an organizational pet for the last several years, which says something, since at his most toothsome he only represents a menace to the mostly harmless Charles Gipson. Bloomquist is up after hitting .270/.331/.383 at Tacoma, while swiping twenty bases in thirty attempts. He's played plenty at second, short, third and the outfield. There has to be more, right? Look, about the only way this guy could get more press than he already hasn't earned is if he was named Benito Mussorgsky or Willie Loman. In Robert Zemeckis' next film, we'll undoubtedly discover that Bloomquist invented Yahoo, Starbucks, and Al Gore, "and" had the time to rule Tom Brady's fumble a forward pass. As Bill Murray said about Luis Rivera in his stint in the Cubs' booth, I hate everything Willie Bloomquist stands for, or at least everything I'm pretending he does.

Luis Ugueto on a postseason roster? Book it... assuming that the Mariners even make it, instead of taking a step towards reverting to their storied Barry Bonnell days.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Lance Carter from Durham; optioned RHP Brandon Backe to Durham; designated P Enger Beras for assignment. [8/31]

Activated OF-R Greg Vaughn from the DL. [9/1]

Recalled UT-R Damian Rolls from Durham. [9/3]

These are mostly minor matters. Greg Vaughn won't really be playing much; he's only on the roster to get some pinch-hitting action, so the outfield of Randy Winn, Carl Crawford, and Ben Grieve will remain undisturbed down the stretch.

Former Royals pitching prospect Lance Carter is back after blowing out his elbow, and he's arriving after an outstanding season at Durham, going 12-2 with a 2.80 ERA, while allowing only 111 hits in 132 IP, along with an insane 90-12 strikeout to walk ratio. He'll get the opportunity to make a spot start or two. If Tanyon Sturtze can carve out a career for himself, the Rays are right to take a look at someone like Carter as well. There are worse ways for the cartilaginous fishies to spend their time, like Juan Guzman or Wilson Alvarez or Matt White or Bobby Seay or...

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Activated RHP Rudy Seanez from the 60-day DL. [9/2]

The Rangers have enough people they ought to be looking at that they should have the courage to admit they gained nothing by assuming the risk to sign Rudy Seanez. Cut him now, and spare the innings for people who matter for the 2003 Rangers. If that presents a problem for Mr. Hart, he can assuage his bruised conscience by helping Mr. Seanez pack.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Claimed LHP Jason Kershner off of waivers from the Padres. [8/30]

Recalled C/OF-B Jayson Werth from Syracuse. [9/1]

Recalled SS-B Felipe Lopez from Syracuse; purchased the contract of C-R Kevin Cash from Syracuse; transferred RHP Chris Carpenter from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/2]

Extended the contract of manager Carlos Tosca through 2004, as well as the contracts of pitching coach Gil Patterson, hitting coach Mike Barnett, third base coach Brian Butterfield, first base coach John Gibbons and bullpen coach Bruce Walton; purchased the contract of LHP Scott Wiggins from Syracuse; transferred RHP Luke Prokopec from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/3]

These are two very different sorts of add-ons. From the initial trio of lefty relievers that the Jays opened the season with, Dan Plesac is an irrelevant Phillie, Pedro Borbon is an Astro, and Felix Heredia is banged-up. So the Jays went from having chits to deal to dealt chits, or from chitty to chitless.

Taking a flyer on Jason Kershner is a pretty sensible little idea. In a swing role in the minors this season, he posted a 3.03 ERA while allowing only 65 hits in 86 IP, leavened with a nifty 83-26 strikeout to walk ratio. Although he murdered lefties, he was also getting right-handers out, so he could be more than just a situational second lefty in a big league pen. If he's just a second lefty, again, nabbing him on waivers is a lot nicer than signing somebody ten years older than he is to fifteen times what he'll make next season if he shines this September.

The other situation where the Jays went from strength to weakness in-season has been at catcher. Part of the problem has been losing Darrin Fletcher to retirement, Kevin Cash to a hand injury (that fortunately enough was not a broken bone, so he's up), and Josh Phelps to his destiny as a DH. Jayson Werth isn't going to be the answer behind the plate. At Syracuse this summer, he played in 102 games in the outfield, but only 23 as a backstop. The Jays are rightly concerned that somebody as big as Werth (6'5") probably can't withstand the wear and tear of catching. Werth seemed to adjust to the outfield easily enough while hitting .257/.354/.445 (which translates to a .254 Equivalent Average). He's only 23, so he has the chance to adapt and become a useful regular in the outfield. That means that the Jays will continue to use the Tom Wilson/Ken Huckaby offense/defense combo behind the plate, which is a solid holding pattern until Cash is totally ready at some point during next season.

The bad news is that Luke Prokopec is done, and probably for all of next year as well. There's no reason to second-guess the pickup, it's just the peril of shopping for young pitchers--you find them in the combustibles aisle, between Sean Penn and Ann Coulter.

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


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