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Anyone else remember all of those predictions that this would be one of the
most boring trading deadlines ever? Instead, we got one of the best. Take a
deep breath, and let’s dive into it:


ANAHEIM ANGELS

Acquired 1B/OF Chris Hatcher, RHP Mike Heathcott and 2B
Brett King from the Cubs for RHP Brett Hinchliffe and IF
Keith Luuloa. [7/28]

Acquired LF Ron Gant from the Phillies for RHP Kent
Bottenfield
. [7/30]

A strange combination of moves. Picking up Chris Hatcher initially makes all
sorts of sense. He’s a pretty nifty DH for a team that has wasted four
months on the non-Clemente as a platoon mate for non-DH Scott Spiezio.

However, it subsequently becomes nothing more than a neat little bit of
insurance, as Bill Stoneman makes an overt gesture towards contention. It
isn’t that Ron Gant is going to be a good enough hitter to help propel the
Angels into the wild-card slot. Despite Gant’s being a significant upgrade
on Spiezio and Edgardo Clemente, he isn’t that good: .254/.324/.487 with a
.265 Equivalent Average.
And it isn’t as if this is a salary dump.

While the perfect solution would have been finding a way to make Ken Hill
disappear, we don’t live in a perfect world, and Stoneman settled for a
stunt that might impress season-ticket holders or his corporate masters
while helping the Angels score a couple more runs on the season. As gestures
go, it’s one with more symbolic value than on-field impact, but that’s the
arena where the Angels have the most ground to gain between now and the end
of the season.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Byung-Hyun Kim to Tucson; purchased the contract of RHP
Johnny Ruffin from Tucson. [7/30]

The rhetoric is that Byung-Hyun Kim needs some time to regain his control,
but considering that Kim limits right-handed batters to hitting
.144/.241/.258, the Snakes have a more basic problem here. By the time
postseason rosters need to be set at the end of August, Buck Showalter’s
crew needs to sort out who’s going to be the 11th pitcher. Kim should be in
no danger on that front; he’s just the convenient fall guy with an option to
use. If they’re smart, Johnny Ruffin will be the tenth pitcher after posting
a 2.98 ERA in Tucson while limiting hitters to 48 hits, four home runs and
25 walks in 57 1/3 innings with 66 strikeouts.

That leaves the fight for the 11th spot between Matt Mantei and his chronic
arm problems, carpenter-turned-Taiwan League star-turned-mystery
flamethrower Geraldo Guzman (no need for fifth starters in the postseason,
and Showalter is unlikely to bump Armando Reynoso) and well-travelled mop-up
man Russ Springer. Yes, the answer looks obvious to me, too, but that isn’t
to say it’s going to happen.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed OF Reggie Sanders on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
recalled OF George Lombard from Richmond. [7/28]

Signed RHP Stan Belinda. [7/29]

Acquired 1B/LF B.J. Surhoff and RHP Gabe Molina from the
Orioles for C Fernando Lunar, OF Trenidad Hubbard and RHP
Luis Rivera. [7/31]

Half-empty or half-full–how do you want it, Braves fans? Sure, bringing in
a reliable mediocrity like B.J. Surhoff is exactly what this offense needed
to paper over the scar in left field for the rest of the season. Maybe
Reggie Sanders will have some value in a platoon role once he comes back;
and reduced to a bench role, Bobby Bonilla becomes one of the most fearsome
pinch-hitters the Braves have ever carried into the postseason. Hey, when
the tradition includes Jorge Fabregas and Greg Myers…

The problems with this move are plenty, and really have me wondering whether
we need to page back through time and sort out where John Schuerholz started
breaking with the Braves’ past (dominated by Bobby Cox and Paul Snyder and
the rest of the gang that made this franchise great) and began falling into
his own bad habits. Those are the ones that ran the Royals into the ground
during repeatedly futile attempts to keep up with the Sandy Alderson/Tony La
Russa Oakland teams of the late 1980s.

Surhoff is under contract for two more years, and while Wally Joyner should
fade away after this season, that’s still a big salary commitment to a
player who doesn’t deserve anything more than part-time play. The other
problem is that if you compare the Surhoff trade to what little the Mariners
had to give up to get a better and equally available hitter (Al Martin), you
can’t help but be a little disappointed. While Surhoff has made himself into
a good outfielder, is a nice-fielding old man with plenty of good
citizenship awards but barely adequate offensive skills worth a young
pitcher with Luis Rivera’s talent? At least the Braves managed to get Gabe
Molina as well, as he makes for a nice insurance policy in case Skippy
Belinda isn’t any better with the Braves than he was with the Rockies.

George Lombard isn’t hitting that much better than he did in last year’s
injury-riddled debacle: .259/.347/.400. As a bench player, he’s more useful
than Otis Nixon, since he can hit that well and run (27 steals versus
seven times caught).


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed IF Mark Lewis on the 15-day DL; retroactive to 7/21 (strained
hamstring). [7/27]

Traded SS Mike Bordick to the Mets for RHPs Lesli Brea and
Pat Gorman, C/UT Mike Kinkade and UT Melvin Mora;
placed RHP Scott Erickson on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation);
released UT Rich Amaral; purchased the contract of RHP Ryan
Kohlmeier
from Rochester; activated 3B Ryan Minor from the DL;
transferred RHP Calvin Maduro from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/28]

Traded C Charles Johnson and DH Harold Baines to the White Sox
for C Brook Fordyce and RHPs Miguel Felix, Juan
Figueroa
and Jason Lakman; traded RHP Mike Timlin to the
Cardinals for RHP Mark Nussbeck and 1B Chris Richard. [7/29]

Recalled LHP B.J. Ryan from Rochester. [7/30]

Acquired RHP Luis Rivera, C Fernando Lunar and OF Trenidad
Hubbard
from the Braves for 1B/LF B.J. Surhoff and RHP Gabe
Molina
; acquired 3B Jose Leon from the Cardinals for 1B Will
Clark
and cash; recalled 3B Carlos Casamiro from Bowie
(Double-A). [7/31]

Well, you don’t get a more dramatic repudiation of a team built to
accomplish nothing beyond spend Peter Angelos’s money than a dumping of five
lineup regulars. Toss in trading the closer, putting a rotation starter on
the DL, cutting an oddly overpriced utility man and placing the utility
infielder on the DL, and it’s almost as if this was never the team that only
just recently picked up Darren Holmes.

Beyond the overdue trimming of fat, what exactly did the Orioles accomplish?
Some of these trades will cost the Orioles compensation draft picks they
might have otherwise expected (Mike Bordick and Charles Johnson in
particular), so keep that in mind when evaluating the crop of minor leaguers
acquired. So what did they get? Gas. Not D.C.-style hot air, but a lot of
young pitchers with great fastballs.

First, there’s Luis Rivera, the prize from the B.J. Surhoff trade and
someone who could have been the best right-handed reliever in the Braves’
pen in the playoffs if they’d held onto him. Then there are the three
Dominicans. From the Mets, Lesli Brea brings outstanding heat, although his
command of his breaking stuff is sketchy at best since he’s averaging around
six walks per game. He could be an asset in the bullpen in pretty short
order. Juan Figueroa also has a good fastball; while Brea has already
cracked Triple-A, Figueroa has only just made it to Double-A; both are 21.
Miguel Felix isn’t pitching well in A ball at the age of 23, but he has good
heat, too. Jason Lakman was once a prospect with one of the best fastballs
in the minors, but he’s had a hard time adjusting to Double-A, and it’s
symbolic of the strength of the pitching in the White Sox organization that
he got pushed into the bullpen this year after hitting his first real rough
patch.

While potential is a dirty word when you’re talking minor-league pitching,
this is a pretty good swag. I don’t know which one will get to play a young
David Cone to John Parrish’s riff on Sid Fernandez, but chances are good
that one or two of these flamethrowers turns into somebody useful.

But quantity doesn’t add up to quality across the board. Pat Gorman isn’t
much of a prospect, no matter how well he’s been blowing people away as a
closer in the Sally League. It’s his third year at the level, and for
perspective, he’s only two months younger than Ryan Kohlmeier. Mark Nussbeck
is a 1996 29th-round draft pick out of a small Nebraska college. While he’s
been solid in Memphis’s rotation this year (3.96 ERA), keep in mind that
he’s one year removed from allowing 100 runs in 102 innings, and he’s
averaging an extra run allowed per nine this year when you count unearned
runs.

The position players the Orioles received don’t hold out as much in terms of
potential. Several of these guys can be useful spare parts or bench players,
but only Jose Leon merits the label "prospect." Melvin Mora should
help the Orioles out as a utilityman, but he’ll continue to be miscast as a
shortstop for as long as there’s no one else to consider playing (which
should have folks asking why Augie Ojeda was discarded over last winter for
no return).

Brook Fordyce is a nice guy to have share the catcher’s job with Greg Myers
until Jayson Werth is ready. While I think it would be worthwhile to let
Mike Kinkade be the team’s DH for the next two months, you have to worry
about an organization that has tabbed Chris Richard as a prospect and as
someone who will be an everyday player next year. He’s already 26, and while
he’s been having a nice season at Memphis (.277/.366/.469), he’s too old to
be a good prospect. Leon has good power but has continued to scuffle with
his command of the strike zone. At the worst, he’s a better player than
organizational favorite Ryan Minor. Fernando Lunar and Trenidad Hubbard can
share a beer with Brian Hunter over the misfortune of going from a bench
headed for the postseason to a bench headed for oblivion. All things
considered, this is going to be a really bad lineup for the next two months,
which isn’t a significant break from the recent past.

There’s other good news here. Scott Erickson has been the fifth-worst
starting pitcher in baseball according to Michael Wolverton’s
Support-Neutral
stats. The four men who’ve been worse are all out of work:
Vladimir Nunez and Roy Halladay have lost their rotation slots, while Sean
Bergman and Jaime Navarro have been cut. Replacing Erickson will be Jose
Mercedes. While Mercedes isn’t as good as his recent hot streak, he’d be
hard-pressed to work his way down into Erickson’s company. The Orioles ought
to take a look at Josh Towers during the last two months instead of wasting
their time with Erickson or Pat Rapp anyway, and that will be easier now
that they’ve dumped so many other vets.

After all of this, have the Orioles made any progress? I don’t really think
so. All of these moves are a year too late. Their extreme reluctance to give
opportunities to talented young hitters like Cal Pickering or Jerry Hairston
Jr. has already altered both players’ careers for the worse. The lineup is
going to be ugly for the next two months because there isn’t enough talent
in the system to quickly replace this many regular position players. While a
well-run organization would take this as an opportunity to do some
aggressive shopping among minor-league free agents, this is the Angelos
Orioles. Expect some high-profile, medium-price mediocrities to be signed to
lend ineffable veteran qualities to next year’s last place team. Because of
the shortage of internal options, don’t be surprised at all if Bordick is
back: the Orioles won’t be signing A-Rod, and they could certainly do a lot
worse than Bordick.


BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired RHPs Rolando Arrojo and Rick Croushore and IF Mike
Lansing
from the Rockies for RHPs Brian Rose, John Wasdin
and Jeff Taglienti and UT Jeff Frye. [7/27]

Assigned PH Sean Berry to Pawtucket. [7/30]

The ongoing slugfest between Red Sox players decrying the Duke’s
cold-blooded release of veteran players on the one hand, and the Duke’s
equally cold retort that the goal is to contend on the other, is becoming
more and more meaningless as it gets fought out over increasingly feeble
players. Mike Stanley’s career is pretty close to over, but Sox players
decry how he’s been treated (conversely, remember how little outcry there
was when the White Sox cut a cuttable Carlton Fisk in 1993, and from a
division-leading team no less?), as if performance somehow shouldn’t the
bottom line. But the Duke hardly helps his case when his idea of improvement
is to drag in bad players in major tailspins. Sean Berry? Bernard Gilkey? Ed
Sprague?

Mike Lansing has been awful this season, hitting .258/.315/.419 overall and
.202/.255/.273 away from Coors Field. He’s 32, and he isn’t going to
suddenly get better. He could end up being a worse offensive regular than
Sprague, no easy feat. Who cares if Rolando Arrojo is signed to a cheap
contract? He was the worst starter in the Rockies’ rotation, and has pitched
worse than even Ramon Martinez, without the talented brother to excuse his
struggles. Rick Croushore might help the Red Sox pen, but he’s been smacked
around in the PCL, posting a 7.36 ERA. While I’ve always been sold on the
idea that Croushore can help a team as a long reliever, where he can use his
screwball to good effect, will the Red Sox instead have him repeat his
situational disasters?

The problem isn’t one of the talent they gave up, but that this is the
talent that the Duke took the time to go out and get. It isn’t going to help
them catch the Yankees, it isn’t going to help them win the wild card, it
may not even help them keep up with the Blue Jays and, speaking from
experience, the only thing more ignominious than getting beaten by Gord Ash
is underestimating Ash’s capacity to screw up his team’s shot at winning the
division three years in a row. When the Duke loses to the Yankees this year,
when they were so very catchable, he’ll deserve to be held to the same
standards he’s applied to Stanley or Mark Portugal or Reggie Jefferson or
even Kevin Kennedy, because at the end of the day, he didn’t get the job
done.


CHICAGO CUBS

Acquired RHP Brett Hinchliffe and IF Keith Luuloa from the
Angels for 1B/OF Chris Hatcher, RHP Mike Heathcott and 2B
Brett King. [7/28]

Acquired OF Rondell White from the Expos for LHP Scott Downs;
acquired 1B Ross Gload and RHP Dave Noyce from the Marlins for
LF/1B Henry Rodriguez. [7/31]

While most of the deals that happened as the deadline approached were cases
of good teams insuring themselves or adding that needed veteran, the Cubs’
July endgame is perhaps the most intriguing of the lot. They’re within ten
games, and my undoubtedly irresponsible gut feeling about any Tony La Russa
team is that they tend to be so tightly wound that if you give them a chance
to blow it, they will.

But does that make the Cubs’ shot something even remotely within the realm
of possibility? Sure, anything’s possible, but even if a miracle occurred
and the Cubs caught up, the most they can aspire to is a repeat performance
as postseason speed bump for the Braves. That sort of prize has been the
ignoble goal of the Andy MacPhail/Ed Lynch regime all along, and while you
can take the Ed Lynch out of the organization, you can’t rid the
organization of this kind of "ambition." With a rotation of Jon
Lieber, Kerry Wood, Kevin Tapani and…Ruben Quevedo and…and…hmm, well,
even that goal is unattainable.

You can interpret MacPhail’s failure to negotiate a multi-year extension
with Rondell White as a clear statement on White’s feelings on becoming a
Cub, which is also why you can see how MacPhail managed to get him so
cheaply. As a risk, it’s still worthwhile for the Cubs. While swapping the
Henry Rodriguez/Glenallen Hill platoon for Rondell White is great if you’re
in some sort of simulation league where injuries don’t happen, the fact is
White is hurt. He might help the Cubs play a good spoiler role down the
stretch, and because it’s the Cardinals, that’s important for the fans. If
White has a fun month or two, and the Cubs creep within five games by
season’s end, that’s a pretty good starting point for MacPhail to work with
in trying to coax White to stay beyond the 2001 option that you can expect
to be exercised.

There’s still the question of what kind of future the Cubs are trying to put
together. Now that Damon Buford is in place and looking adequate for this
year and next, and White is also under contract through next year and Sammy
Sosa is his Sammyness, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of opportunity for
Corey Patterson to do much more than represent Iowa in the 2001 PCL All-Star
Game.

The deal to pick up Keith Luuloa was a pretty good move, as long as they do
the next sensible thing and liquidate Jeff Huson. I don’t know who I’d
rather have between Luuloa and Augie Ojeda, but I know who isn’t doing the
team much good. Picking up Ross Gload doesn’t make much sense unless the
Cubs want to build a platoon of Hee Seop Choi and Gload at some point next
year. While that’s a great idea, it would mean cutting the cord with Mark
Grace, and you know that’s impossible. If Grace were to somehow disappear,
the organization couldn’t possibly settle for anyone less than Tom Cruise,
or maybe David Hasselhoff. Perhaps Puffy Combs, or a cute Joe Judge
impersonator.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Acquired C Charles Johnson and DH Harold Baines from the
Orioles for C Brook Fordyce and RHPs Miguel Felix, Juan
Figueroa
and Jason Lakman. [7/29]

As much as I like Mark Johnson (the one who catches), Charles Johnson is the
third-best hitting catcher in the American League behind the now-gone Pudge
Rodriguez and the Yankees’ Jorge Posada. While he may not be Bob Boone
behind the plate, he still intimidates base-stealers and he’s still a good
receiver. Supported by a Sox staff that’s significantly better than the
Orioles at holding runners, Johnson will be an asset on defense.

Harold Baines is nothing more than a sentimental pickup, at most around for
a weekly spot start in his retired #3 or a pinch-hitting appearance or two
for a situational matchups; he’s no longer a good enough hitter to want up
automatically instead of even Chris Singleton. But he’ll get to hitch his
worn-out wagon to the White Sox’s push into the postseason, and considering
how many years he labored in anonymity for the franchise, it’s a nice
gesture.

They won’t miss the pitchers they gave up. Not one of them. Even after the
trade, they’ve got a good half-dozen pitching prospects more than they know
what to do with. It’s a credit to the organization Ron Schueler has built
that he can deal from this kind of strength to support a team that’s finally
his, and not a leftover from the almost-something Sox of 1993 and ’94.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Acquired RHPs Bob Wickman, Steve Woodard and Jason Bere
from the Brewers for OF/1B Richie Sexson, RHPs Paul Rigdon and
Kane Davis and a PTBNL; acquired OF Wil Cordero from the
Pirates for SS Enrique Wilson and OF Alex Ramirez; acquired 1B
David Segui from the Rangers for OF Ricky Ledee; purchased the
contract of UT Bill Selby from Buffalo; transferred RHP Charles
Nagy
from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/28]

Optioned RHP Tim Drew to Buffalo; designated RHP Jaime Navarro
for assignment. [7/29]

The big question here is that if John Hart wanted to do all of this, why
wait so long? It isn’t as if the Brewers’ wild-card fantasies hadn’t already
died by the end of April. Wil Cordero would have only cost money over the
winter, instead of a good young shortstop. Turning David Justice into David
Segui might lead to some slender defensive payoff, but it doesn’t represent
an overall offensive upgrade. Cordero meets a certain level of adequacy, but
so would Alex Ramirez if he’d been given the chance. While there’s a certain
kind of bravura to the performance, at the end of the day, are the Indians
really better?

They are, but it isn’t because of the hitters they’ve hauled in. Having
Manny Ramirez back will make the real impact on offense during the next two
months.

The good news is on the pitching side of things. While Hart has deserved to
be taken to task for his many shortsighted shopping sprees for pitching,
whether it was John Smiley or Ricky Rincon or Dave Burba, this may be his
best trade for pitching in his long career. Bob Wickman will get the glory
role as closer, but he hasn’t been a significantly better pitcher than Steve
Karsay or Paul Shuey or Justin Speier.

Wickman is only the high-profile addition. Jason Bere isn’t exactly special,
but for a fifth starter, he’ll be an adequate fill-in. The sleeper in the
deal is the guy who could end up making the biggest difference, Steve
Woodard. When his sinker is on, with a tight infield defense he can be
dominating. When he’s got Mark Loretta bellyflopping after balls heading
into short left field, he’s bad news. If Omar Vizquel is everything he’s
cracked up to be, Woodard could easily become the Tribe’s third starter, and
he’s still a couple of years away from free agency.

Nobody else in these deals has that kind of potential. They’re all
serviceable journeymen, and it’s only that Hart added so many of them, and
needed so many of them, that made it such a high-profile weekend for the
Indians.

The question is whether it’s too little, too late. I still don’t think the
Tribe can catch the White Sox, but because of these deals I expect them to
be neck-and-neck with whoever’s in second place in the AL West down the
stretch for the AL wild card. And in the playoffs, I wouldn’t bet against
any of the four teams that make it, because I expect three hard-fought,
tight series. The costs have been very high, but the short-term payoff is
there for the taking.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Acquired RHPs Brian Rose, John Wasdin and Jeff
Taglienti
and UT Jeff Frye from the Red Sox for RHPs Rolando
Arrojo
and Rick Croushore and IF Mike Lansing. [7/27]

Placed RHP Kevin Jarvis on the 15-day DL (back spasms). [7/28]

Sold the contract of OF Bubba Carpenter to Hyundai (Korean League);
received LHP Sean Fesh from the Phillies to complete the Ed
Vosberg
trade. [7/29]

Acquired OFs Todd Hollandsworth and Kevin Gibbs and LHP
Randy Dorame from the Dodgers for CF Tom Goodwin and cash.
[7/31]

Because most of the players Dan O’Dowd picked up in these deals aren’t good
prospects and have little chance of playing critical roles in the team’s
future, think instead of most of these moves as maneuvers designed to give
him flexibility going into the offseason.

There are some gems in this group. While he’s no All-Star, Jeff Frye is good
at getting on base (.289/.364/.354), something the Rox sorely need wherever
they’re playing. Todd Walker probably won’t even force his way into a
platoon role, which is another good indication of how far he’s fallen. Todd
Hollandsworth is a better offensive player than Goodwin once you adjust for
the difference between Coors and Chavez Ravine, which makes the Dodgers deal
all the sweeter when you consider that they got a very interesting pitching
prospect in Randy Dorame as well as a good fourth outfielder in Kevin Gibbs.

Brian Rose is the most famous name, but he’s also the guy I expect to
fizzle. Unlike Dorame or even John Wasdin and Sean Fesh, he doesn’t do a
very good job of fooling batters very often.

Now, I know I’ve been inclined to downplay the significance of the strikeout
as opposed to other kinds of outs within the context of individual games,
while saying that strikeouts are useful as a diagnostic tool in assessing a
pitcher’s future. But what if the Rox were looking at strikeouts against the
backdrop of a bigger issue: avoiding balls in play in the most
hitter-friendly ballpark major-league baseball has ever seen?

For example, it isn’t that Gabe White is a homer-prone pitcher. He is, as is
Wasdin. But what if the Rockies were looking at something more basic, like
whether or not pitchers who were successful at Coors were more successful at
getting batters to swing and miss, or get hitters to hit that two-seamed
fastball they wanted them to pop up, or beat that low sinker they wanted
them to send on its worm-killing way, or flail at that changeup they never
expected? What if the Rockies are looking for guys who go back to the
original goal of pitching, to upset the hitter’s timing?

There are reasons that I’m beginning to suspect this is Dan O’Dowd’s goal,
but it’s something I’m going to have to chew on a bit more to produce
anything more important than this line of speculation.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed RHP Dave Mlicki on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/23 (sinus
infection); recalled RHP Erik Hiljus from Toledo. [7/27]

Released DH Luis Polonia; purchased OF Billy McMillon from
Toledo. [7/31]

Billy McMillon has only been ready to take a job from the Luis Polonias of
the world for the last five years, so it’s nice to see that he finally is
getting an opportunity before he turns 30.

In Dave Mlicki’s absence, Steve Sparks will continue to fill a spot in the
rotation. That won’t do much for the Tigers’ push to stay out of last place,
with only Randy Smith’s future hanging in the balance. The organization’s
only important question is whether or not they’ll fire Smith before he signs
Juan Gonzalez to considerably more than he’s worth, or because of it.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed SS Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled UT
Chris Clapinski from Calgary. [7/28]

Placed OF Cliff Floyd on the 15-day DL (knee); purchased the contract
of SS Mendy Lopez from Calgary. [7/29]

Acquired LF/1B Henry Rodriguez and cash from the Cubs for 1B Ross
Gload
and RHP Dave Noyce. [7/31]

Almost as fascinating as the Cubs’ or the Angels’ involvement in prestige
politics while pretending to be in the running, the Marlins’ decision to add
Henry Rodriguez on the cheap is an interesting development. Are they really
expecting to knock off the Mets? Do they really think this kind of move will
suddenly generate booming ticket sales, or that the uninterested Florida
market will suddenly rally to this team?


It would be great if they did, because in a lot of ways this is the kind of
team Marlins fans might have expected on the basis of the club’s early,
patient, development-oriented program. This team, and not the thoughtful
gamble of 1997, is the birthright of those fans who’ve been with this team
from 1993 and Scott Pose’s first at-bat, through the dim days of the era of
Orestes Destrade. There’s a lot here to like, and while I superficially
believe that picking up Henry Rodriguez is nothing more than a hopeless
gesture, in my heart of hearts, I hope that hard-core Marlins fans
appreciate it.

It wasn’t as if there are that many obvious alternatives. Abraham Nunez is
hitting well in Portland, but he’s also been DHing all season because of a
shoulder injury. As bad as Rodriguez might be in the field, he’s still
physically able, and it’s only John Henry’s money we’re talking about. If
he’s comfortable spending it on two months of Henry Rodriguez, and if he
wants to pretend it will help him negotiate his way into a taxpayer
hornswaggling and new stadium, more power to him.

With Oh Henry! on board, the Marlins have a pretty good platoon in left
field between him and Kevin Millar. Unfortunately, John Boles will have to
find playing time for all of them come September, and that’s going to be a
bit of a squeeze now that Derrek Lee has finally broken through.

If there’s one sour note to sound, it’s good riddance to Alex the Bad
Gonzalez. While he managed to just get his nose over the Mendoza line before
hurting himself (.201/.233/.320), he’s giving tools goofs an even worse name
than they deserve. The only man who ought to miss him is Pat Meares, if only
because Gonzalez has been the only guy with a better claim than Meares for
worst starting shortstop in the major leagues.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Acquired RHP Scott Linebrink from the Giants for RHP Doug
Henry
. [7/30]

Placed C Mitch Meluskey on the 15-day DL (shoulder); recalled C
Raul Chavez up from New Orleans. [7/31]

If the Astros were worried about their draft position, losing Meluskey will
certainly help. A job-sharing arrangement of Tony Eusebio and Raul Chavez
won’t produce runs, but it will create pinch-hitting opportunities for
whichever outfielder isn’t starting as well as Daryle Ward.

Here’s the surprise in this space: that Moises Alou or Ward weren’t traded.
Expect a snafu involving Alou and a waiver-claim deal in the next couple of
weeks, right around the time that Roger Cedeno comes off of the DL.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Purchased the contract of RHP Kris Wilson from Wichita (Double-A);
designated RHP Doug Bochtler for assignment. [7/28]

Acquired RHP Brian Meadows from the Padres for RHP Jay
Witasick
. [7/31]

Talk about bitter pills. The Royals have invested almost two entire seasons
in seeing what Jay Witasick can do, and now they have a very good idea. He
has not been a good starting pitcher. Sure, he’s had his moments of
grandeur, but to call him inconsistent would be an insult to flakes
everywhere. Nevertheless, he’s shown a good fastball, and there are reasons
to believe he could be a very effective relief pitcher.

Having punished patient and not-so-patient Royals fans with the experiment
of seeing what he could do, what’s the payoff? They turn a talented pitcher
with a few problems into one of baseball’s worst starting pitchers, bar
none. Brian Meadows routinely gets hit hard despite pitching in some good
pitchers’ parks in the non-DH league. I don’t care how much of a battler
some sportswriters might call you, if you can’t strike out four men per nine
innings, it means you’re getting hit. In the AL, that’s a recipe for batting
practice. If this is Allard Baird’s idea of improvement, then Royals fans
may want Herk Robinson’s amiable aimlessness back.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated C Todd Hundley from the DL; optioned C Paul LoDuca
to Albuquerque. [7/27]

Optioned RHP Eric Gagne and LHP Onan Masaoka to Albuquerque;
activated RHP Gregg Olson from the DL; added RHP Ismael Valdes
to the active roster; tranferred DH Geronimo Berroa from the 15- to
the 60-day DL. [7/28]

Acquired CF Tom Goodwin and cash from the Rockies for OFs Todd
Hollandsworth
and Kevin Gibbs and LHP Randy Dorame. [7/31]

While I’d normally tout Todd Hundley’s return as the start of great things,
I don’t see it unless he manages to maintain his incredible early season
production. That’s a combination of acknowledging that he won’t hit as well
as he did with how well Paul LoDuca and Chad Kreuter have done in his
absence. Add in the misfortune of having to take Onan Masaoka off of the
roster to make room for all of the Dodgers’ remaining relief geezers and the
pointless acquisition of Tom Goodwin, and you’re left with a mishmash of
moves that don’t look like they add up to anything that will make up ground
on the Snakes.

Goodwin’s chief asset is his durability. While the Dodgers desperately need
a leadoff hitter or something resembling one, this is only the second year
in Goodwin’s six years as a regular that he’s posted an OBP significantly
above the league average. Coming down out of Coors isn’t going to help him
keep it up.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Acquired 1B/LF Richie Sexson, RHPs Paul Rigdon and Kane
Davis
and a PTBNL from the Indians for RHPs Steve Woodard,
Jason Bere and Bob Wickman. [7/28]

Purchased the contract of RHP Bob Scanlan from Indianapolis. [7/29]

Designated OF Chris Jones for assignment. [7/30]

Simply speaking, this was a bad trade. Sure, the Brewers need a right-handed
power bat, and sure, Richie Sexson has been known to play one on TV. But
he’s only hitting .256/.315/.460 with a .250 EqA, a lousy performance for a
left fielder or a first baseman. While the Brewers should be able to control
the next four years of his career, getting his best seasons, is that really
going to help them all that much?

Because they can expect Jeromy Burnitz to bail out at the first opportunity,
they’re looking at a lineup that will have to be built around Sexson, Geoff
Jenkins and Ronnie Belliard. While all three have their uses, and Belliard
might eventually develop into a superstar, that’s a bunch of guys already in
their mid 20s who are good, but not great.

In the absences of the pitchers now traded, the Brewers will do a few things
differently. Davey Lopes has correctly identified Curtis Leskanic as his
best reliever, which means he’ll be limited to the least important role on a
bad team, closer. A rotation spot is open, especially since the pitchers
they’ve added are fodder at best. Kane Davis is a minor-league free agent
getting more attention than he dreamed possible, and Paul Rigdon is one of
those guys who might grow up to be Larry Luebbers.

Bob Scanlan was enjoying a superb year as Indy’s closer (1.18 ERA, 26
saves), but he’s Bob Scanlan. The open spot in the rotation should belong to
Ben Sheets, assuming that the Brewers do the smart thing and call him up to
avoid having him fall into Tommy Lasorda’s clutches for use and abuse
pitching for Team USA.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Optioned OF Chad Allen to Salt Lake; recalled CF Torii Hunter
from Salt Lake. [7/29]

Acquired C Danny Ardoin from the Athletics in exchange for 1B
Mario Valdez. [7/31]

Chad Allen’s audition was brief, which is a good indication of his future
with the club. Torii Hunter’s future is far more secure. It isn’t that
anyone expects him to build on his great two months in Utah
(.368/.403/.727). His skills are the ones this team seems to want from its
fourth outfielder: he’s still an outstanding center fielder and he can form
a platoon of sorts with Jacque Jones in either center field or left field
once Bobby Kielty comes up and takes the other position, perhaps as soon as
September.

Picking up Danny Ardoin adds to the Twins’ embarrassment of riches in good
catch-and-throw catchers. Marcus Jensen is a good glove, as is Chad Moeller.
Javy Valentin has his strong points, and Ardoin is another good glove. So
whenever they decide Matt LeCroy is ready for good, they’ll have a serious
battle on their hands for who gets to be his caddy.

What’s really stupid about this move is that it means that the Twins never
appreciated what Mario Valdez could have done for them. They’ve already got
a bunch of good catching catchers, while Valdez could have been their
starting first baseman, with Corey Koskie at third base and David Ortiz at
DH.

While I like a lot of what the Twins have accomplished in the last two years
as an organization, they just blew an opportunity to have the next Matt
Stairs on their hands, and possibly even better, because Valdez can pick it
at first base. It’s moves like this that lead to comments from Brian Cashman
like the one he made last year about so-called small-market teams and their
inability to help themselves.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Activated RHP Hideki Irabu from the DL. [7/27]

Returned RHP Hideki Irabu to the 15-day DL (sore elbow); recalled RHP
Guillermo Mota from Ottawa. [7/28]

Acquired LHP Scott Downs from the Cubs for OF Rondell White.
[7/31]

Jim Beattie may not be calling all of the shots any more, but guilt by
association is still guilt. We’ll tar the entire organization for turning
Rondell White into a nifty fourth or fifth starter. It isn’t that Scott
Downs is so awful. He could very well turn into Greg Hibbard with time, and
for those of you hardcore Bulldog fans out there, that’s a happy thing. But
White was a top commodity, he’s under contract through next season, the
commissioner’s office had agreed to turn a blind eye to major-league
baseball’s injunctions against trading players on the DL…and this is all
that the Expos could get for him?

The worst-case scenario? Trading White for a player two years from
arbitration represents the first step of a decision by Jeff Loria to pull
out and leave the Expos to his parsimonious Quebecois partners.


NEW YORK METS

Activated SS Kurt Abbott from the DL; optioned RHP Grant
Roberts
to Norfolk. [7/27]

Acquired SS Mike Bordick from the Orioles for UT Melvin Mora, C/UT
Mike Kinkade and RHPs Pat Gorman and Lesli Brea;
recalled 1B Jorge Toca and OF Jason Tyner from Norfolk;
acquired OF Bubba Trammell and RHP Rick White from the Devil
Rays for Tyner and RHP Paul Wilson. [7/28]

Optioned 1B Jorge Toca and PH Mark Johnson to Norfolk;
designated LHP Rich Rodriguez for assignment; activated 3B Robin
Ventura
from the 15-day DL. [7/29]

It might surprise you to hear that Mike Bordick has been the fifth-best
hitting shortstop in the majors this year, but it isn’t that shocking. He’s
behind the Big Three and Barry Larkin, and that’s it.

The Mets ended up getting two months of Bordick pretty cheaply. Melvin Mora
and Mike Kinkade are nifty bench players in the NL, but no more than that.
Pat Gorman is in his third year in the Sally League and Lesli Brea is the
lone prospect of the lot, and "pitching prospect" still ends up
being an oxymoron more often than not.

Nabbing Rick White and Bubba Trammell for a useless speed goof and the last
busted-up "Young Gun" is a steal, pure and simple. White has been
one of the best relievers in all of baseball and gives the Mets a pair of
durable middle men between him and Turk Wendell. Hats off to Steve Phillips,
because he managed to significantly strengthen his team’s shot at the NL
wild card while only giving up one possible prospect and no good
major-league players. While he didn’t bring in the starting pitcher that the
Mets have needed since discarding Masato Yoshii, he managed to do everything
but that, and with a weak hand.

The Mets lineup and bench are shaping up nicely as well. They’ve got three
benchies who can play anywhere even after trading Mora (Kurt Abbott, Lenny
Harris and Joe McEwing). They have Bubba Trammell around as a great fourth
outfielder, although that term is basically meaningless when there isn’t a
whole lot of difference among Trammell, Benny Agbayani and Derek Bell. The
only thing limiting their playing time is the fact that none of them can
play center field, which means Jay Payton will continue to play regularly.

Amidst all of this reshuffling, you could almost miss the return of Robin
Ventura. That would be a mistake. With four right-handed-hitting outfielders
and a right-handed hitting shortstop with pop, he’s the lone lefty in the
lineup, and they’re going to need him for that, now more than ever.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated RHP Ramiro Mendoza from the DL; optioned RHP Darrell
Einertson
to Columbus. [7/28]

For the time being, Ramiro Mendoza is in the pen and David Cone is still
employed. That’s just as well, because while the Yankees can string along
Cone’s future for as long as El Duque is on the DL, they desperately need
Mendoza in the pen. They’ve overused Jason Grimsley and they discarded Todd
Erdos. Without Mendoza, they lack an adequate right-handed middle reliever.

What’s interesting for the Yankees is the choice they’ll have to make once
El Duque is ready. As bad as Cone has been, the Yankees would probably have
made do with him if Doc Gooden hadn’t scuffled in, taken his last shot at
being an effective five-inning fifth starter and run with it. While the
decision is meaningless in terms of the playoffs (the playoff rotation is
some combination of Orlando Hernandez, Denny Neagle, Roger Clemens and Andy
Pettitte), it will undoubtedly generate all sorts of Big Apple angst, an
unwilling trip to the DL, a frank admission that "this is my last
year," and all sorts of speculation about how somebody’s career proves
that nobody will ever win 300 games ever again. And most of it will be a
bunch of hot air, including that last one.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Acquired RHP Jim Mecir and LHP Todd Belitz from the Devil Rays
for RHP Jesus Colome and a PTBNL. [7/28]

Transferred DH John Jaha from the 15- to the 60-day DL; designated RHP
Marcus Jones for assignment; assigned LHP Todd Belitz to Sacramento. [7/29]

Optioned RHP Ariel Prieto to Sacramento. [7/30]

Acquired 1B Mario Valdez from the Twins for C Danny Ardoin. [7/31]

As good as Jim Mecir is–and he’s been one of the five best relievers in the
majors according to Michael Wolverton’s
Reliever Evaluation Tools–I have a
really bad feeling about this move. Not quite a Larry Andersen/Jeff Bagwell
sort of nausea, more of a Dave Parker/Jose Rijo kind of heartburn, where no
matter what the old guy does, I know I’m going to hate this deal a lot more
two years from now.

Mecir does give the A’s a good third reliever, which is critical considering
the divide between Jason Isrnghausen and Jeff Tam on the one side, and Doug
Jones, T.J. Mathews and Mike Magnante ("I gave up a first-round draft
choice and all I got was this lousy lefty."). But as good as Mecir has
been, he’s always had freaky bad luck with injuries, and are three good
relievers enough? While getting something is better than nothing, they’re
still going to have to count on Jones or Mathews to have a good couple of
weeks sometime soon. I end up liking the Mariners’ chances more the more I
think about it.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that as much as I know, and as much as
you know, that there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect, Jesus Colome
might be the owner of one of the ten best fastballs on the planet. It’s
worse still to see him go to one of baseball’s worst-run teams, and to have
to wonder if they’ll end up screwing him up so badly that few will remember
his talent well enough to give Billy Beane a hard time ten years from now.
I’ll say it now, with regret for what could have been: I hope Colome has one
hell of a career as a Devil Ray almost as much as I hope Jim Mecir ends up
being a key player for the A’s in the playoffs this year.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed RHP Paul Byrd on the 15-day DL (multiple tears – shoulder); recalled
RHP Cliff Politte from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/28]

Acquired RHP Kent Bottenfield from the Angels for LF Ron Gant. [7/30]

Acquired RHP John Sneed from the Blue Jays as the PTBNL in the Ducey deal;
transferred Byrd from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/31]

You have to hand it to the Phillies; hardly a week goes by without another
mixed bag. Getting a pitcher as good as John Sneed for such an easily
replaceable commodity as Rob Ducey is a flat-out steal, and now you can add
a big (6’6″) hard thrower to the growing group of exceptional young pitchers
that Ed Wade has managed to assemble out of a season that had started off as
a major debacle.

Which can only leave us scratching our noggins wondering where the original
weeble-wobble pitcher fits in. Kent Bottenfield is one of the game’s better
utility pitchers, but what is he doing on this team? He could definitely
help out in the bullpen, but will he go back to the pen after last year’s
18-win fluke? Now that Paul Byrd is done for the season, the Phillies are
better off reserving rotation spots to evaluate guys like Sneed and Cliff
Politte and Amaury Telemaco, to sort out who can help and how soon.

All three could help right now, with Sneed preferably in the pen, but a lot
still depends on Terry Francona’s capacity to learn from his mistakes as a
manager. As much as he has been inclined to leave his starters in too long,
as Vicente Padilla now knows, that goes for relievers too. If Wade doesn’t
straighten Francona out soon, then he’ll be allowing his manager to waste
the organization’s few assets on the sort of silly machismo stunts that
ought to have been packed up with Curt Schilling.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Acquired SS Enrique Wilson and OF Alex Ramirez from the Indians for OF Wil
Cordero
. [7/28]

Activated RHP Francisco Cordova from the DL; placed RHP Todd Ritchie on the
15-day DL. [7/29]

Acquired SS Jack Wilson from the Cardinals for LHP Jason Christiansen.
[7/30]

Agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with OF/1B John VanderWal.
[7/31]

Cam Bonifay is sort of the Anti-Herk in that while he screws up so many
things in his pursuit of mediocrity, every few months or so he shakes down
John Hart for something he desperately needs. Heck, maybe he’s got a running
bet with Jim Bowden on who can get the most talent from Hart while giving up
the most thoroughly average guys in return.

While Bonifay was being touted for his genius for bringing in Pat Meares
because somehow the Twins were obviously cheap beyond words to not overpay
for one of the game’s worst all-around shorstops, it wasn’t long (roughly
ten minutes or so) before the Pirates needed another shortstop. Now, almost
two years later, they’ve got a potential All-Star in Enrique Wilson. He’s
got an outstanding throwing arm, which he’ll finally get to show off on a
regular basis, and he’s a better hitter than most shortstops, especially in
the league where the Big Three ain’t.

In a world where you can always excuse multi-year deals for mediocre corner
outfielders because you can claim that you might be able to peddle them for
talent, Bonifay actually pulled it off. He even capped it by rewarding a
better hitter than Wil Cordero, John VanderWal, with a multi-year deal. If
ever the Bucs finally find a center fielder, they’re set in the corners.
Alex Ramirez will end up making a great platoon partner for VanderWal,
assuming the Pirates can finally sort through their half-dozen good fourth
outfielders and make some decisions on who to keep around.

Now Bonifay just has to get Pat Meares’s carcass in some other uniform, but
that may have to wait until after A-Rod has chosen where he wants to be next
year.

What’s funny about the deal with the Indians is that no sooner had Bonifay
acquired a major-league-ready regular shortstop than he nabbed one of the
other good shortstop prospects around, Jack Wilson. While Wilson’s eventual
position may end up being somewhere other than shortstop (perhaps center
field?), he’s an outstanding young hitter (.294/.368/.452 at Double-A
Arkansas).

In the meantime, Gene Lamont loses another starter, which allows Bronson
Arroyo to continue to improve with each outing. The intended rotation of
Kris Benson, Francisco Cordova, Jose Silva, Todd Ritchie and Jason Schmidt
may not take the field again this year, but in the meantime the Pirates will
have a good opportunity to evaluate Arroyo and Jimmy Anderson. Because I
expect really bad news on the Schmidt front, they should have a spot open
for one of the kids next summer.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated OF J.D. Drew from the DL; optioned 1B Chris Richard to Memphis.
[7/27]

Optioned RHP Mark Thompson to Memphis; recalled RHP Gene Stechschulte from
Memphis. [7/28]

Acquired RHP Mike Timlin from the Orioles for RHP Mark Nussbeck and 1B Chris
Richard
. [7/29]

Acquired LHP Jason Christiansen from the Pirates for SS Jack Wilson;
optioned RHP Gene Stechschulte to Memphis. [7/30]

Acquired C Carlos Hernandez and UT Nathan Tebbs from the Padres for RHP
Heathcliff Slocumb and OF Ben Johnson; acquired 1B Will Clark and cash from
the Orioles for 3B Jose Leon. [7/31]

Part of this is reaping what you sow, part of this is just downright silly,
and all of it may not be enough to hold off the Reds.

First off, with the exception of J.D. Drew’s return, none of these moves do
much to make sure the Reds don’t get any closer. The Cards never should have
gotten themselves into the position of carrying Matt Morris and Alan Benes
and Mark Thompson simultaneously. Now, because Tony LaRussa devoted time and
roster space to multiple rehabbing starters, he’s stuck with Alan Benes down
the stretch. Because the Cardinals got all hot and bothered about the great
Mike Matheny, they’re stuck with him. By acquiring Carlos Hernandez, they
not only ended up discarding someone (Heathcliff Slocumb) who was pitching
better than new Cardinal Mike Timlin, they ended up getting someone only
infinitesimally better than Matheny as a hitter and an undeserving excuse
for keeping Eli Marrero off the postseason roster.

For that, they gave up on Ben Johnson, an outstanding young outfield
prospect. To get a useful lefty reliever, they gave up Jack Wilson, arguably
their best position-player prospect. At least they didn’t give up that much
to get Timlin and Will Clark. While each of them should be useful, they’re
not going to be as useful to the Cardinals as a Sean Casey returning to form
will be for the Reds.

All in all, the Cardinals have remained true to their basic goal for the
year: win at all costs. Their maimed farm system has been pruned some more,
and the season still remains in doubt because of the injury to Mark McGwire.
If this serves as a bitter reminder for how the organization wasted the
previous three seasons with a (usually) healthy McGwire, so be it.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated C Carlos Hernandez from the DL; optioned LHP David Maurer to Las
Vegas. [7/28]


Acquired RHP Heathcliff Slocumb and OF Ben Johnson from the Cardinals for C
Carlos Hernandez and UT Nathan Tebbs; acquired RHP Jay Witasick from the
Royals for RHP Brian Meadows; acquired RF/1B John Mabry and RHP Tom Davey
from the Mariners for DH Al Martin. [7/31]

Remind me, which team is trying to add veteran arms for its pennant drive?
Why in God’s name the Padres want Heathcliff Slocumb and Jay Witasick is
beyond me. While dumping Brian Meadows makes all sorts of sense, trading
Carlos Hernandez to get Slocumb almost looks like the exact opposite of Cam
Bonifay’s trading Wil Cordero for Enrique Wilson. Hernandez got a big
multi-year deal for no good reason when his value was higher than it would
ever be again, and Slocumb is a journeyman reliever.

But it’s the throw-in that produced the payoff for Kevin Towers. Ben Johnson
is probably the only outfield prospect the Cardinals have. He’s just turned
19, he’s hitting for power in the Midwest League, has reasonable speed and
command of the strike zone and doesn’t look like he should be in this deal.

On the other hand, he didn’t get anything close to value for Al Martin, even
if you make allowances for Martin’s recent conversion to old-school
Mormonism and the resulting legal entanglements. John Mabry is a defensive
replacement in right field who isfrequently asked to do things he can’t,
like hit or play third base, and Tom Davey is earning a reputation for being
hard-headed and uncoachable while struggling to regain the prospect status
prematurely given to him coming up through the Blue Jays’ organization.

Because he’s taking Meadows’ place on the roster, Witasick will probably be
asked to continue to work as a starter. It doesn’t help that Stan Spencer
had to be shut down on rehab.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Acquired RHP Doug Henry from the Astros for RHP Scott Linebrink. [7/30]

Don’t laugh, but Doug Henry immediately goes from being part of the problem
in an underachieving Astros pen to the third-best reliever Dusty Baker has
to his name. After Robb Nen and Felix Rodriguez, the Giants haven’t been
getting good innings or work out of anybody. Henry may be tateriffic (with
10 allowed in his 53 innings) and he can’t blame Enron Field for his
problems, but he is coming to one what may be one of the better pitchers’
parks in baseball, and he’s been pretty unhittable overall: 39 hits and 28
walks with 46 strikeouts and a 4.42 ERA in those 53 innings.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Acquired DH Al Martin from the Padres for RF/1B John Mabry and RHP Tom
Davey
. [7/31]

The key issue for the Mariners going into the deadline was whether or not
they would have to part with one of their seven starting pitchers to add a
left-handed-hitting outfielder. Pat Gillick managed to accomplish the
mission, and do considerably better than that.

First, Al Martin, despite his obvious defensive shortcomings, is a better
player to have around than B.J. Surhoff if what you want is a bat for the
short term. Second, Martin’s problems aren’t a major problem with the
Mariners because he’ll be sharing playing time in the outfield corners with
Jay Buhner, Rickey Henderson and Stan Javier. Third, addition by subtraction
is still addition, and getting John Mabry out of the lineup and away from
third base is a good move. Fourth, well, they didn’t end up finding somebody
to help out at second base or third base, but they still have the seven
starters.

That, more than anything else, is the reason why I think they’ll be able to
hold off the A’s down the stretch. Even if Lou Piniella falls back into his
old ways and abuses (and loses) one starter or even two starters down the
stretch, the Mariners aren’t going to have to dig up Salomon Torres or start
Frankie Rodriguez. They’re covered. Sad to say, but I like their chances of
holding the A’s off.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Acquired OF Jason Tyner and RHP Paul Wilson from the Mets for OF Bubba
Trammell
and RHP Rick White; acquired RHP Jesus Colome and a PTBNL from the
Athletics for RHP Jim Mecir and LHP Todd Belitz. [7/28]

Recalled RHP Travis Harper from Durham. [7/29]

Acquired 2B Brent Abernathy from the Blue Jays for RHP Steve Trachsel and
LHP Mark Guthrie. [7/31]

When it comes to deals, Chuck LaMar is an omnivore. Spit-take laughers or
great pickups, he manages to mix them up. In this case, getting Jesus Colome
from the A’s is a significant coup. It isn’t enough to make up for getting
raped by the Mets or discarding two useful veteran pitchers for a middling
second-base prospect, but it’s probably the highlight of the entire season
for the organization.

With a fastball that routinely tops 100, Colome has been remarked upon early
and often. In one of the toughest hitters’ parks in the minor leagues,
Midland, he’s managed to keep his ERA under 4.00 (3.59) while allowing 99
hits and 50 walks in 110 1/3 innings, with only ten home runs allowed and 95
strikeouts. He’s been especially tough on left-handed hitters, who struggle
to catch up with his heater, and rarely get any of his stuff out of the
infield. He’s got a groundball-to-flyball ratio of around 1.5, which I
always like to see out of a power pitcher. He wasn’t especially hurt by
Midland, pitching about as effectively on the road as at home.

That’s the good move, and it sticks out like Bill Clinton’s unzipped legacy.
The other moves? Jason Tyner is a singles-hitting stiff, everything LaMar
wanted Randy Winn to grow up to be and more. Having learned nothing from
trying to play Winn, LaMar seems determined to keep trying with bad players
until he gets himself fired. Paul Wilson doesn’t look like a good bet to
recapture anything approaching his former gleam as a prospect, since he was
scuffling along at Norfolk. To give up a good hitter like Bubba Trammell and
one of the best relievers in baseball in Rick White for two guys who may
never make it in the majors borders on criminal; combined with getting
Colome for one of the other best relievers in baseball it is simply
boggling.

As for getting Brent Abernathy, while he’s a better player than Miguel Cairo
could ever hope to be, and a better second baseman than Russ Johnson, I have
a hard time believing that this was really the best LaMar could do for a
solid starter and a good left-handed reliever. I’d like to think that it was
a salary-driven move made at the deadline, in a scramble. On the other hand,
if making the trade with the Mets was the product of lots of prior thought,
then the Devil Rays might be better off keeping LaMar under a ten-second
deadline to keep him from thinking too much.


TEXAS RANGERS

Acquired OF Ricky Ledee from the Indians for 1B David Segui. [7/28]

While I’m not one of Ledee’s more enthusiastic believers, this isn’t a bad
move for the Rangers. Ledee’s stats (.235/.325/.408) hardly bear this one
out, but he’s still got his fuzzy prospect glow, and having him (instead of
Lee Stevens, let alone David Segui) gives the Rangers a good opportunity to
go into next spring with some flexibility and some talent to fix problems.

Set aside the idea of using Ledee as a center fielder. Johnny Oates’ first
choice was to put Gabe Kapler in center, which was the better option. Set
aside fretting about whether or not playing first base could get Raffy
Palmeiro hurt; it’s a risk they’re willing to take, and unless they get
hideously unlucky, if he suffers a minor injury it isn’t as if anything is
at stake. What Ledee gives the Rangers is a solid insurance policy in case
Ruben Mateo doesn’t heal well over the winter. If Mateo heals quickly and
plays winter ball, then the Rangers will have some choices about who and
what they can deal: maybe Rusty Greer for top value, maybe Ledee for another
prospect, maybe Frank Catalanotto to a team that needs a second baseman. If
they can turn any kind of deal into something that includes getting Darrren
Oliver’s contract and claim on a rotation spot off of their hands, even if
they have to eat some of the money, then they really come out ahead.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed RF Raul Mondesi on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/22 (sore elbow).
[7/27]

Acquired RHP Steve Trachsel and LHP Mark Guthrie from the Devil Rays for 2B
Brent Abernathy. [7/31]

The trade with the Devil Rays isn’t so cut and dried. Unfortunately,
Abernathy was the only viable organizational alternative to ending the Homer
Bush-Craig Grebeck charade at second. So while bringing in Trachsel plugs
the Roy Halladay-sized hole in the rotation and gives the Jays a pretty
solid unit for the next two months, they’re stuck with Bush and Grebeck the
rest of the way. The only reason Trachsel was available for so little was
his incentive-laden contract, where the incentives are about to start
kicking in with a venegeance. That means the Jays can look forward to an
unhappy balance of trying to catch the Yankees while having to cut extra
checks, win or lose.

But let’s focus on the positive: a rotation of Jumbo Wells followed by Frank
Castillo, Steve Trachsel, Kelvim Escobar and Esteban Loaiza gives the Jays a
solid rotation, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Chris Carpenter
and Halladay to be helpful in the pen. The only concern is Mike Royko’s
dreaded ex-Cub factor, considering that Castillo and Trachsel used to be the
young guns in the rotation of some really lousy Cubs teams in the mid-90s.
It only gets worse when you remember Guthrie pitched for the Cubs for a few
months.

Replacing Mondesi with a platoon of Rob Ducey and Marty Cordova is never a
good thing, but at least the Jays have the happy news that Mondesi should be
back within two weeks.

The balancing act for the Jays is whether these recent band-aids for the
rotation are enough to paper over major problems, like another weak bench,
more offensive zeroes at second at short, and a still-ugly bullpen. Gord Ash
played for low stakes while trying to win the AL East, and I can’t help but
feel he didn’t do enough to help his team improve its shot at the postseason
for the third year in a row.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.