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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Optioned RHP Lou Pote to Edmonton; recalled RHP Brian Cooper from Edmonton.
[7/17]

For the time being, this gives the Angels a rotation of Cooper, Kent
Bottenfield, Ken Hill, Jarrod Washburn and Seth Etherton. Scott Schoeneweis
should be back before the trading deadline, which gives the Angels the
opportunity to either deal Bottenfield or ditch Ken Hill. Complicating the
situation is the Angels’ flirtation with contention. The schedule over the
next couple of weeks gives them the advantage of a couple of series against
Texas while the Mariners and A’s smack each other around, but there will be
a couple of tough matchups with the White Sox and A’s. Having Schoeneweis
and Washburn available for the A’s series will be important; having Ken Hill
around still isn’t. The Angels really do have a shot, but they need to add a
useful bat at DH–not hard to do, but they need to use either
Bottenfield or Hill to do it, and that’s far from easy.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Nelson Figueroa and OF Jason Conti to Tuscon; recalled RHP
Geraldo Guzman from El Paso (Double-A); activated 1B Alex Cabrera from the
DL. [7/17]

Buck Showalter’s creative solution to his lineup problems is to do with
Cabrera what he’d already done with Travis Lee: move him to right, and give
Danny Bautista a continued role on the team as a defensive replacement. Any
team with a Tony Womack-Jay Bell combo up the middle is already resigning
itself to taking its lumps on defense. It doesn’t exactly matter when the
Big Unit is on the mound, and there are few balls in play, let alone
baserunners. Similarly, Brian Anderson can keep himself out of trouble
because of his control.

The rest of the rotation is another problem altogether. With Omar Daal
relegated to the pen, the Snakes have a tough juggling act, where they keep
the entire pen around (and with both Daal and Mike Morgan in it), while
shuttling Figueroa and Guzman up as needed. Since Figueroa has to stay down
ten days, he won’t be back until towards the end of next week, which should
mean a spot start for Morgan.

But for the stretch, the Snakes’ offense is about as good as it can be with
the talent on hand. Cramming both Cabrera and Durazo into the lineup is
critical as long as they’re dragging Womack around, and as long as Jay Bell
continues to scuffle. No lineup can afford two or three easy outs–just look
at the Cubs for proof of that.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Released RHP Darren Holmes; purchased the contract of LHP John Parrish from
Rochester. [7/19]

With Sidney Ponson ailing and Jose Mercedes being Jose Mercedes, Parrish
should end up getting a shot at a rotation slot in the next week. While his
numbers might make you think he’s a power pitcher (53 walks and 82
strikeouts in 97.1 IP, to go with 79 hits, and a 4.25 ERA), he’s 22 and
something of a soft-tosser. He should be the first of several starting
pitchers who should come up for a cup of coffee over the next two months or
two. Josh Towers seems like a lock for a callup, and as long as the Orioles
are goofing off with Mercedes, could it really hurt to interrupt Rick Krivda’s
International League Hall of Fame career?

Holmes has now been released thrice in the season. I have no idea who gets
him next, the Tribe or the Cubs, but I’m willing to bet its the Cubs. After
all, they’re still very excited about the last ex-Oriole they nabbed (Tim
Worrell), and as bad as the Orioles pen has been, the Cubs have still
managed to underwhelm them for a coveted hold on last place among major
league pens according to Michael Wolverton’s
Reliever Evaluation Tools.


CHICAGO CUBS

Announced the resignation of GM Ed Lynch. [7/19]

Optioned LHP Daniel Garibay to Iowa; recalled RHP Kyle Farnsworth from Iowa.
[7/20]

Farnsworth had a wee bit of success in Iowa as a closer, but he still hasn’t
given any indication that he can throw a breaking pitch for a strike, and
only pitching coach Oscar Acosta seems to be laboring under the delusion
that he doesn’t need to. But with Rick Aguilera continuing to be a working
example for why save stats mean nothing in terms of pitcher quality, you
can’t blame the Cubs for getting desperate. At this stage, they’re better
off releasing Aggie and keeping Garibay around for his situational uses.
This makes even more sense when you consider that in Garibay’s absence, Don
Baylor’s down to one lefty in the pen, which means Felix Heredia will
continue to be wasted in a situation role. The Cubs have the makings of a
decent bullpen by committee, where they could mix and match Farnsworth, Todd
Van Poppel and Heredia, keeping Garibay in the situational lefty role, and
using Tim Worrell and Steve Rain in the middle. Instead, they’re victimizing
themselves with an anointed closer, and they’re not a good enough team
offensively to afford one as inept as Aguilera.

Ed Lynch’s decision to bail out on the havoc he has wrought gets full treatment
in the current
NL Central Notebook.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Placed RHP Cal Eldred on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/15 (ulnar
neuritis – elbow). [7/17]

Recalled RHP Lorenzo Barcelo from Charlotte. [7/18]

With the Tribe not exactly heating up and making up lost ground, the Sox are
taking advantage of their organizational pitching depth to set Eldred aside
now before things get any worse with his chronic elbow problems. In his
absence, they’ll have both Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland in the rotation,
while continuing to keep Kevin Beirne in the pen for mop-up duties and long
relief. Barcelo will be joining him. As one of the potential jewels of the
great Sabean Shakedown of 1997, Barcelo’s elbow reconstruction in 1998 has
so far kept him from adding any embarassment to what’s already been a bad
deal for the Giants. While he has been throwing with good velocity for
Charlotte, the results have been mixed: a 4.44 ERA, 111 hits and 20 homeruns
allowed in 95.1 IP, but only 17 walks to go with 57 strikeouts. If the Sox
leave him alone in relief, this should be a good opportunity for him to get
some experience in a role with low pressure and low stress on the elbow, and
he could easily turn into a valuable middle man.

One of the reasons the Sox need to evaluate Barcelo now is because of the
problems they are experiencing in the pen. Keith Foulke seems to be getting
back on track, but Sean Lowe’s been a disaster this season. The Sox need to
evaluate what they have in hand right now before deciding whether or not
they’re in the market for a veteran reliever down the stretch. If they stick
with Barcelo, they won’t be disappointed, and they can restrict their
shopping to a lefty-hitting spare outfielder.


CINCINNATI REDS

Turned 1B Hal Morris into a pot of gold, or at least a couple of fading
twenties. [7/18]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Mark Wohlers and DH Brooks Kieschnick from
Louisville; announced that RHP Andy Larkin was lost on waivers to the
Royals. [7/19]

You tell me: if they hadn’t wasted the money they spent on Hal Morris,
wouldn’t they have a couple of extra hundred thousands of dollars lying
around to throw at Barry Larkin? Morris hasn’t been a good offensive player
in years, and he has no defensive value. Why anyone would sign him for more
than the minimum is inexplicable, especially a team like the Reds when
they’re in the business of feigning salary restrictions.

Another reason there was no economic benefit to having a stiff like Morris
around: the easy availability of players like Kieschnick make it pretty
clear that there’s no reason to carry someone with Morris’ withered talent.
Although he’s now 28, Kieschnick still has great power (hitting
.295/.356/.568 for Louisville), and he can stand around at first or in left
just as easily as Morris. The real shame is that the Reds waited until after
their interleague schedule was over, wasting even more playing time on
Morris that would have been better spent with Kieschnick in the lineup. Now
they’ll simply have to settle for an upgrade among their pinch-hitters.

Let’s set aside the present for a moment. Anybody else remember how good
Kieschnick was as a pitcher in college? Anyone else interested in seeing
teams invest that 25th roster spot to players who can pinch-hit as well as
pitch mop-up? Kieschnick actually used to throw pretty hard, so it isn’t
like he’d be Frankie Menechino out there. I’m just curious to see a team try
to do it, especially when you have a team like the Angels burning a roster
spot on a Rule 5 pick while they need a DH, or you have the Mets cycling
through a new mop-up man every week. If teams really are feeling a crunch as
far as roster space, why not get creative? Sadly, Doug Dascenzo is no longer
available, but would it really be a worse idea than recycling Darren Holmes?

While its nice to see Wohlers finally come back, its hard to say he earned
it. He’d managed to cough up 21 runs in 20.2 IP in Louisville. It makes for
a great story and another player in Jim Bowden’s retread trophy case if he
shows anything over the next two months, but it doesn’t seem likely.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed INF Enrique Wilson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/14 (sprained
wrist); recalled RHP Tim Drew from Buffalo. [7/17]

Purchased the contract of LHP Cam Cairncross from Akron (Double-A);
designated LHP Andrew Lorraine for assignment. [7/18]

Because the Indians already have Jolbert Cabrera around to back up in the
middle infield and Russ Branyan to back up Travis Fryman at third, they
didn’t really need to fill Wilson’s roster spot with another utility
infielder. It helps that Charlie Manuel avoids pulling Fryman or Roberto
Alomar or Omar Vizquel. Wilson still desperately needs to get off of this
team so that he can get his career underway as somebody’s starting
shortstop. If healthy, he would make great trade bait to the Blue Jays,
Angels, Mets or Diamondbacks.

Its the pitching side of things that seems to nothing more than gratuitous
mayhem. While Tim Drew’s shaking off a slow start at Buffalo to get down to
a 5.54 ERA, he really doesn’t look ready. Between his work at Buffalo and
Akron, he was giving up five runs per nine innings, while posting a meagre
48:31 K:BB ratio in 103 IP. I don’t care how hard up the Tribe is for
pitching, it isn’t as if Drew is the difference between their making the
World Series or not. To make matters worse, it looks like they’re trying to
rush Jaret Wright back for the third time in less than a year.

Discarding Andrew Lorraine is great for teams like the A’s or the Yankees,
contenders looking for a good lefty situational man. This year, Lorraine’s
held lefties down to rates of .171/.231/.200. Blank out his last name and
his lengthy minor league experience, and teams tend to play plenty for
someone who can do that. Why the Indians cast him aside for nothing, just to
take a spin with a 28 year old Australian research project, has no good
explanation when you consider that they don’t have any other left-handed
reliever available.

What strikes me as particularly sad is the argument that the Indians can’t
afford to trade away prospects in the farm system for a veteran or two to
help them right now. Set aside whether or not it isn’t already too late. The
problem is that the Indians’ farm system isn’t strong enough to have much to
offer beyond C.C. Sabathia. The players who should have value are guys like
Wilson, and have been allowed to get moldy and lose value in trade in
meaningless part-time roles. As a result, for this franchise the future is
now, and its a big step down from the recent past. With Manny Ramirez likely
to walk away after this season, you’re looking at an offense which might
amuse you with the antics of Richie Sexson and Russ Branyan, but it’ll have
a hard time keeping up with the Royals for second place.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Designated OF Darren Bragg for assignment, and outrighted OF Angel
Echevarria
to Colorado Springs (losing Echevarria to the Brewers on waivers)
to make room for 2B Todd Walker on the active roster; recalled LHP Rigo
Beltran
from Colorado Springs; designated Beltran for assignment; recalled
DH Butch Huskey from Colorado Springs. [7/17]

Now that he’s a free man if he elects to go free agent, Beltran should still
have some value, perhaps back with the Mets if they’re tired of using
someone as bad as the bad Bobby Jones. Pitching in a launching pad like
Colorado Springs, he was managing a 5.47 ERA, allowing only 99 hits in 100.1
IP, striking out 68 and walking 56 while giving up a dozen homeruns. That
doesn’t sound like much, but Beltran is still a good choice to man a spot
starter and long relief role somewhere in the majors.


DETROIT TIGERS

Traded DH Gabe Alvarez to the Padres for 1B Dusty Allen. [7/17]

Placed DH Juan Gonzalez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (ankle);
acquired 1B Hal Morris from the Reds for cash. [7/18]

From the laughable rhetoric desk, we have the Tigers’ current claims that
they’re a contender, while submitting the acquisition of a toothless Hal
Morris as evidence of their seriousness. Bobby Higginson’s recent statements
that the White Sox don’t look like a winning team were amusing, based as
they are on Higginson’s extensive experience with watching other teams win
games. They’re still closer to last place than they are to second, but
they’re already trash-talking?


FLORIDA MARLINS

Activated RHP Dan Miceli from the DL; optioned RHP Joe Strong to Calgary;
transferred RHP Alex Fernandez from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/19]

Placed RHP Brad Penny on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Joe
Strong
from Calgary; activated RHP A.J. Burnett from the DL; optioned Strong
to Calgary. [7/20]

Penny wasn’t too consistent, having contributed all of 0.01
Support-Neutral Wins Above Replacement
level, so its probably for the best
that they don’t push him any more than they already have when he’s only 22.
With a good park to pitch in and a rotation of Ryan Dempster, Chuck Smith,
Reid Cornelius, Burnett and Jesus Sanchez, the Marlins are in decent shape
for the short term. The long term is a bit more troubling, as it should be
when any team is relying as heavily on young starters like Penny, Dempster
and Burnett as the Marlins are. While he hasn’t achieved the same level of
infamy as Jim Leyland or Tommy Lasorda, or peers like Dusty Baker or Jim
Fregosi, John Boles may match the start of Bobby Valentine’s managerial
career. From 1986-7, Valentine burned out a talented young rotation before
we really had the chance to get familiar with Jose Guzman and Kid Correa.

The other good news for the short haul is Miceli’s return. Add him to a pen
featuring Braden Looper from the right side and lefties Armando Almanza and
Vic Darensbourg, and that’s as good a bullpen as you can have when its
headed by a "closer" like Pulpo Alfonseca. Add a basically strong
pen to a talented young rotation and a decent offense, and it looks like the
Marlins should finish in third this year. While that’s a tremendous
accomplishment for Dave Dombrowski and the organization in the short term,
they need to come to terms with Boles’ future quickly if they don’t want to
settle for this as an unhappy high water mark in a rebuilding project that
is only just now starting at the major league level.

Lastly, it looks like Alex Fernandez is done for the year. I’m sad to see
him go, but I won’t take the Fish to task for not trading Fernandez when
they had their opportunities last summer and this spring. Beyond his
association with the 1997 world champs, Fernandez is also a local with some
symbolic value. Keeping him around gave John Henry some claim on the past as
well as somebody to portray as a role model to the future, and while I don’t
that kind of posturing is worth much, Henry’s also in the business of trying
to get himself a new stadium. For that reason, I don’t see this as quite the
same thing as failing to cash in Bryan Harvey when they had the chance.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated 2B Carlos Febles from the DL; optioned RHP Brett Laxton to Omaha.
[7/18]

Claimed RHP Andy Larkin off of waivers from the Reds. [7/19]

Added RHP Andy Larkin to the active roster; optioned RHP Jose Santiago to
Omaha; placed C Jorge Fabregas on the 15-day DL (inflammation – elbow);
purchased the contract of C Hector Ortiz from Omaha. [7/20]

Febles’ return is the good news. While Jeff Reboulet did a creditable job
and played to his strengths (getting on base at a .356 clip), Febles is the
better defender as well as the better offensive player. His return will
definitely help the Royals in their push for second or third place in the
division.

Losing Fabregas is bad news in one sense, but not so bad in another. He’s a
good catcher, which Gregg Zaun is not. But the up side of losing Fabregas is
that Zaun should get the vast majority of the playing time, and that’s
another small boost to an already strong lineup. Anything that minimizes the
impact of Rey Sanchez’ punchless performance is a good thing. I’m being an
optimist here, because I could easily see Tony Muser getting silly and
letting Ortiz split time with Zaun. Let’s hope for the best, if only out of
sympathy for Rany.

Andy Larkin was available as a minor league free agent this winter. What,
did Herk Robinson keep Allard Baird from signing him then? Is he worth
having around instead of Santiago? I’m extremely skeptical. Santiago had the
option, but why send him down, even considering his problems allowing
inherited runners to score, when you’re already carrying around what’s left
of Doug Bochtler? Or when Larkin’s damaged goods and wasn’t pitching that
effectively?


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed C Todd Hundley on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/9 (fracture –
thumb); recalled RHP Mike Judd from Albuquerque. [7/17]

Purchased the contract of 1B Chris Donnels from Albuquerque; placed UT F.P.
Santangelo
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/17 (contusion – hand);
recalled RHP Al Reyes from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Mike Judd to
Albuquerque. [7/19]

In Hundley’s absence, the Dodgers will have to split time between Chad
Kreuter, Jim Leyritz and Paul LoDuca. Its to Davey Johnson’s credit that
he’s willing to keep Leyritz in the mix behind the plate. Nothing disappears
faster in an old player than an unused skill. Nevertheless, Hundley’s
absence will continue to hurt an offense already hobbled by a variety of
injuries. To help compensate for the offensive problems, they’ve brought up
minor league veteran Donnels. Unlike many of the other Dukes, Donnels’ huge
offensive season isn’t only the product of the bandbox he calls home: of his
26 homeruns pasted while hitting .334/.443/.676 overall, 17 have come on the
road. Sure, those are being hit in other PCL parks, but its still a fun
season all the way around. Add him to a bench already featuring Dave Hansen,
and Johnson has handy a couple of good offensive weapons to help create a
big inning now and again.

A new problem arises now that Santangelo is gone, because with Devon White’s
continued absence it leaves Todd Hollandsworth in the everyday lineup.
Johnson’s been willing to scrag his defenses in the past to squeeze in an
extra bat, so I wouldn’t be totally surprised to see Donnels man an outfield
corner and Shawn Green start a game or two in center. If anything, that
should make Kevin Malone that much more inclined to deal for Rondell White
before the deadline, once White comes off of the DL next week.

Judd was only up to fill in for a single start while Carlos Perez served his
suspension. He’s rebounding pretty well from a miserable 1999, posting a
4.74 ERA in Albuquerque, allowing 105 hits and 37 walks in 93 IP, with 56
strikeouts and only five homeruns. Because the Dodgers expect to lose Darren
Dreifort to free agency, Judd should have a reasonable shot at a rotation
spot next spring.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Claimed OF Angel Echevarria off of waivers from the Rockies. [7/19]

Placed OF Mark Sweeney on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/18 (tendinitis –
shoulder); added Echevarria to the active roster. [7/20]

Echevarria belongs in the major leagues, but I’m not sure if he’s exactly
what the Brewers need. While I always believe a team should nab talent when
its available for free, Echevarria’s too much like some of the other nifty
backup outfielders the Brewers have experimented with, whether its a Mouton
or Sweeney. Like them, he can’t play center, which means the perpetuation of
the Marquis Grissom disaster. Like them, he doesn’t hit enough to play
regularly in an outfield corner, and at 29, he isn’t about to start. Like so
much of what the Brewers have done this season, this is a random move to
keep themselves busy.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed PR Terry Jones (strained quadriceps) and RHP Tony Armas on the 15-day
DL (strained rotator cuff); recalled RHP Guillermo Mota and OF Milton
Bradley
from Ottawa. [7/19]

Fired pitching coach Bobby Cuellar and bench coach Luis Pujols; named Brad
Arnsberg
pitching coach and Jeff Cox bench coach. [7/20]

While there’s been some people saying plenty of nice things about how things
have changed in the Expos’ organization, how minor league players aren’t
still being punished for refusing to scab, things are far from perfect. This
isn’t the first bit of in-fighting involving the coaching staff. Just as the
whole Tommy Harper situation was played out to its ugly conclusion last
winter, Jim Beattie seems determined to wage some sort of petty war with
Felipe Alou, in this case firing Cuellar and Pujols without much in the way
of warning or consultation, and just after Alou’s crew had left for Florida.
If this is some sort of high stakes game where the winner gets to be the
dominant personality to a reinvented Expos franchise resurrected as the D.C.
Black Socks or the Ole Virginny Country Boys, Jeff Loria would be better off
leaving Beattie behind.

Meanwhile, the team on the field takes another step into the future. It
probably helps that the present doesn’t include any sunny wild-card dreams,
not any more. Loria’s high stakes gamble was that if he tried to jump start
interest in the team in the Montreal, he’d have a reason to stay, and if it
didn’t work, he’d have plenty of support within the game to leave. Now that
it looks like he’s leaving, the franchise is better off spending its time
giving Milton Bradley his first shot. He’s coming off of a good stretch in
Ottawa, hitting .298/.383/.427 on the season. An outfield with Bradley in
center and Bergeron in left can cover the gaps better than almost any other
in the majors, and a lineup featuring both of them at the top of the order
will be a godsend for Jose Vidro and Vlad Guerrero.

Add the loss of Antonio Armas to the list of examples for how badly things
have gone awry with the Expos’ pitching staff this year. While it hasn’t
been diagnosed as a major career-altering injury yet, Felipe Alou’s
reputation as a handler of pitchers has taken more than a few hits now that
Mike Thurman, Hideki Irabu, Carl Pavano, and Ugeuth Urbina have all gone
down. Losing Armas for any considerable length of time would only make
things that much worse. Losing Armas reduces the rotation to Dustin
Hermanson, Javier Vazquez and Mike Johnson. Thurman should be ready for the
weekend, and Irabu by sometime next week. It won’t be enough to get the
Expos back in the running with the Marlins, let alone the Mets.

Mota still needs to work on an off-speed pitch or something to set up his
relatively straight fastball; even while pitching effectively at Ottawa, he
wasn’t fooling many of the people most of the time, not with only only 22
strikeouts in 39.1 IP. In a season with so many things going awry, if they
can at least make progress on that front, that would something.


NEW YORK METS

Activated RHP Rick Reed from the DL; placed 3B Robin Ventura on the 15-day
DL, retroactive to 7/14 (bruised rotator cuff). [7/17]

Recalled RHP Jim Mann from Norfolk; optioned LHP Bobby M. Jones to Norfolk.
[7/19]

With Reed’s return, the Mets’ rotation is back at full strength. It seems
sort of uncanny that no sooner does Reed return than Mike Hampton and Al
Leiter start slumping, but the Mets have managed to stick it out through
their innumerable problems so far without making any significant upgrades,
and they’re still in pretty good shape as far as the wild card is concerned.

The worse problem by far is the loss of Ventura. With an already leaky left
side of the infield, losing Ventura and replacing him with the spectacularly
ineffective Lenny Harris isn’t going to make life any easier for the Mets’
lefthanded starters. There’s some talk of acquiring a first baseman and
shuttling Todd Zeile back over to third; this may not be a bad time to
either let Matt Franco get in some time at the hot corner, or install Todd
Pratt behind the plate and move Mike Piazza to first. They could settle for
a Franco-Pratt platoon on the offensive side, with everyone shifting around
on defense to accomodate them. Anything’s better than giving Harris more
than a throwaway plate appearance as a pinch-hitter in losing causes.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed RHP Orlando Hernandez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/14 (elbow);
recalled RHP Darrell Einertson from Columbus.

Since it doesn’t look like El Duque’s injury is going to prematurely end his
season, Doc Gooden gets a continued lease on life. When Ramiro Mendoza
comes off of the DL, he’ll be headed back into the bullpen. The dilemma at
that point will be whether or not Gooden gets kept, or if David Cone hits
the DL for everyone’s benefit. More likely, the Yankees will wait until the
end of August before making any decisions that will impact their playoff
roster.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Optioned RHP Chad Harville to Sacramento; recalled and then demoted RHP
Marcus Jones from Sacramento; recalled RHP Ariel Prieto from Sacramento.
[7/17]

"Mom, Dad! Guess what? I get to make my major league debut in Coors
Field!" I hope the organization gives Jones high marks for taking a
beating on short notice in Monday’s double-header, and letting them hold off
Barry Zito’s debut for a more acceptable gig in Anaheim this weekend. Jones
is a little more than just an organizational soldier after being nabbed in
the third round of the 1997 draft. He was the ace of a good Long Beach State
team that year, although teammate Rocky Biddle looks like the better pro
prospect. Jones doesn’t throw hard, but he has good command, posting a 4.28
ERA while allowing only six homeruns in 94.2 IP, to go with 102 hits, 33
walks and 49 strikeouts. He skipped Double-A after pitching for both of the
A’s Cal League affiliates last year. There’s no reason to expect a great
future for him, but we all need to remind ourselves of the mantra "with
pitchers, you never know…"


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Recalled C Gary Bennett from Scranton-Wilkes Barre; activated LHP Mark
Holzemer
from the DL; optioned RHPs David Coggin and Steve Schrenk to
Scranton-Wilkes Barre. [7/18]

Bennett came up to help the Phillies cover for an injury to Mike Lieberthal,
giving Terry Francona the ugly choice between Bennett and Tom Prince for
playing time. That’s okay, because the Phillies gave up Bobby Estalella to
get… oh, that’s right, Chris Brock. Nevermind.

Coggin’s demotion might look like the Phillies were going shorthanded with
their rotation, but Robert Person was due to be reactivated over the
weekend. That gives them Curt Schilling, Paul Byrd, Randy Wolf, Bruce Chen
and Person. That’s a better outfit that they started the season with. If Ed
Wade recognizes that his two main orders of business are replacing Francona
and buying some offensive talent instead of keeping unproductive old men
like Rico Brogna and Ron Gant and Mickey Morandini, the Phillies would have
a chance to surprise some people next year.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated OF Bruce Aven from the DL; optioned OF Chad Hermansen to
Nashville. [7/18]

Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Sparks from Altoona (Double-A); optioned
OF Tike Redman to Nashville. [7/19]

There’s not much to say here. The Pirates still don’t know what they’re
doing. They should be playing Hermansen every day. They should be peddling
Wil Cordero and Kevin Young for whatever they can get. They should realize
that the fun story of the 1997 Bucs is as dead as collective memories of
Jeff King. Cam Bonifay’s rule as Pirates GM has been a testament to settling
too easily for a limited gain, without realizing that if you really want to
embrace improvement as an organizational goal, it usually involves
roster-revamping Duquette style. Any kind of loyalty to the charmers who
made up your all-underdog team of yesteryear is great for those guys, but
meaningless for the franchise’s future.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed OF J.D. Drew on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/8 (sprained ankle);
recalled 1B Chris Richard from Memphis. [7/17]

First McGwire, now Drew. Not every team can lose two of its three best
hitters, but the Cardinals do have a good lead, and by all indications,
neither player will gone for long. If you’re a diehard Reds fan, this is as
close as you’re getting to the Cardinals’ worst-case scenario.

While it won’t matter for long, Chris Richard joins Keith McDonald in giving
hope to organizational soldiers everywhere. At 26, he’s too old to have a
shot at a real career, but after losing most of 1998 to injury, its nice to
see he still has one. Between Richard, Larry Sutton, and Eduardo Perez, two
will be gone once McGwire and Drew return. One of the guys going down ought
to be given consideration for the jobs of people like Thomas Howard.
Unfortunately, LaRussa’s always loathe to cut a veteran, even when it could
mean the difference between carrying a useful player and a stiff into the
playoffs.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Optioned RHP Scott Linebrink to Fresno; recalled RHP Miguel Del Toro from
Fresno. [7/17]

Placed RHP John Johnstone on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/18 (lower back
pain); recalled RHP Scott Linebrink from Fresno. [7/20]

Losing Johnstone highlights the Giants’ problems with their bullpen. Among
teams with winning records, only the records of the Blue Jays and Cardinals
pens are worse according to Michael Wolverton’s Reliever Evaluation Tools.
While Johnstone has been nothing like the valuable setup man of recent
years, who else do the Giants have? Dusty is still wasting Alan Embree in a
situational role, and while the organization has placed a halo over Del
Toro, he has yet to pitch that effectively at Triple-A.

The organization does have a potential answer to their shortage of useful
major league relievers. I have no explanation for why Robbie Crabtree
continues to rack up innings at Fresno, but he’s having another good season.
In 85.2 IP, he’s put up a 3.47 ERA while allowing only 75 hits (four
homeruns), 23 walks, while striking out 86 batters. Because he throws in the
mid-80s instead of the low 90s (like Linebrink), he doesn’t get much
consideration. Its sad when scouting substitutes speed gun readings for
evaluating a pitcher like Crabtree on his strengths: he has excellent
command, hides the ball well, and can throw his stuff from a variety of
angles. Would it work a second time through a lineup? Maybe, maybe not, but
this is relief pitching we’re talking about. Even when relievers were
routinely asked to toss 90 or more innings, they didn’t go through a lineup
twice. If the Giants want to get serious about their problems, they’ll start
evaluating their pitchers on results instead of wishes.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated DH Jose Canseco from the DL; optioned OF Randy Winn to Durham.
[7/18]

The good news is that the D-Rays have gotten wedged into a situation where
injuries forced them to play Bubba Trammell and Steve Cox, and both ended up
making Chuck LaMar look dumb by playing so well, and now they can’t pull
them or hide them away as easily as they did over the winter. Despite their
winter shopping spree, the D-Rays may just get a bit better from here on
out. If they manage to trade Canseco or, better yet, Fred McGriff, they’ll
have playing time, prospects to play and the prospects they receive, and
money to spend. With a Naimoli operation, you can’t be too sure that last
one is a good thing.


TEXAS RANGERS

Activated RHP Ryan Glynn from the DL; optioned SS Kelly Dransfeldt to
Oklahoma; signed RHP Clint Sodowsky and assigned him to Tulsa (Double-A);
announced that RHP Jared Camp has refused his assignment to the minors and
opted for free agency. [7/17]

Acquired 2B/SS Mike Young and RHP Darwin Cubillan from the Blue Jays for RHP
Esteban Loaiza. [7/19]

Activated LHP Darren Oliver from the DL. [7/20]

While some people are writing off the Rangers because they’ve traded Loaiza,
keep in mind that this trade is more of an acknowledgment of a reality
instead of giving up on anything. Loaiza wasn’t pitching that well, and Doug
Melvin and Johnny Oates can be confident that they’re better off with Glynn,
Matt Perisho, and potentially Doug Davis filling in the back half of the
rotation. If they somehow find a taker for Darren Oliver’s contract, they’re
golden. They’ll be going into 2001 as underdogs, but underdogs with a
reasonably talented rotation, a strong pen, and a enough good offensive
talent to re-enter the race in the AL West. In a division where A-Rod should
be leaving, that’s a strong point to start off with, and Melvin rarely sits
still over a winter.

The question is what are they going to do with Mike Young? In theory, it
makes all sorts of sense to phase him in at short while trying to deal Royce
Clayton. However, there are legitimate questions about his ability to play
short regularly. If he ends up a second baseman, he could be a dandy platoon
mate for Frank Catalanotto for 2001, or up until the point that they decide
that Jason Romano is ready. That doesn’t seem like a lot to get for a
starting pitcher with an ERA within spitting distance of the league ERA, at
least not by current standards, but Loaiza’s due for arbitration (see below
for a bit more evaluation of his performance).

As for Cubillan, although the Blue Jays have compared him to Tom Henke in
one of their more psychedelic moments with an enthusiasm usually reserved
for their infamous outfield "prospects," don’t ask for a hit from
this pipe. Cubillan’s a changeup artist who generously gets accused of
hitting 90 with a fast speed gun. If everything breaks his way, he might
grow up to be Carlos Reyes, because with pitchers, you never know.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed SS Alex Gonzalez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/7 (pulled groin);
recalled RHP Pasqual Coco from Tennessee (Double-A). [7/17]

Optioned RHP Pasqual Coco to Syracuse; recalled RHP Leo Estrella from
Syracuse. [7/18]

Acquired RHP Esteban Loaiza from the Rangers for RHP Darwin Cubillan and 2B
Mike Young. [7/19]

Forgive me, because my enthusiasm for the Blue Jays’ talent always needs the
constant reminder that with Gord Ash running the show, they’ve let us all
down for two years running, so why should this year be any different? While
they’re busy flogging Jose Cruz for not being everything they hoped for,
they’re limping along with both Homer Bush and Craig Grebeck playing
regularly. They’re shortstopless now that Gonzalez is MIA. They’ve still
managed to avoid using Andy Thompson, no matter how desperate their need for
a right-handed bat to platoon with Brad Fullmer, and let’s not even bring up
the failure to get an adequate caddy for Darrin Fletcher.

But the signature move of the Ash regime is the art of the appropriately
meaningless gesture, the "proof" that he’s still trying. In this
case, its picking up Esteban Loaiza. While Loaiza’s ERA is superficially
good-looking in this era of high ERAs (5.37 when the league ERA hovers
around five), he’s hittable (133 hits and 21 homeruns in 107.1 IP). In terms
of his real impact on his team, for the Rangers his Support Neutral Wins
Above Replacement level was a weak 0.54. Consider that as bad as Chris
Carpenter has been of late, his is 0.03. No, neither figure is anything to
get excited about, but keep in mind Roy Halladay’s is -1.55.

The nicest thing to come out of this might be that working in the pen might
save some wear and tear on Carpenter’s arm, and the Jays’ pen does need a
good right-handed middle man. The bad news is that by trading Young, they
basically threw away their best internal candidate to replace Homer Bush.
They still have Brent Abernathy, and need to consider calling him up, but he
could just as easily wind up being another lost Skychief while Ash tries to
find out what Mike Gallego or Garth Iorg is up to.

In the meantime, Frank Castillo’s wonky elbow gave both Coco and Estrella
their big league debuts. Estrella’s looking like a steal coming over from
the Mets in the Tony Phillips dump of 1998; he’s shot through the Jays’
system with a combined 3.74 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s allowed
only 90 hits in his 113 minor league innings this year, along with 45 walks
and 82 strikeouts. In case you missed it, he’s also tossed a couple of
no-hitters this season. Keep in mind, he’s also two months older than
Carpenter. If you’re an optimist, you figure Estrella’s just coming into his
own, and I happen to think that’s a pretty reasonable argument. He could end
up being very valuable down the stretch in middle relief, and could easily
turn into a rotation regular by next season. He may even be old enough to
avoid Jim Fregosi doing his worst.

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

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