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July 7, 1999

Transaction Analysis

June 30-July 5, 1999

by Christina Kahrl


Placed RHP Ken Hill on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (elbow inflammation); recalled LHP Jarrod Washburn from Edmonton. [7/2]

Coming on the heels of losing Belcher, you might think this is bad news for the Angels. But Hill's been pitching hurt all year, and losing someone walking more than five guys per nine innings can't be all bad. What losing Hill and Belcher does for them is put Terry Collins and Bill Bavasi in a situation where they're going to have to take their chances with a minor league vet like Mike Fyhrie (8-5 at Edmonton with a 3.40 ERA in 106 IP; 84 hits allowed, 33 walks, 106 Ks and only seven taters, all while pitching in the PCL), or a talented prospect like Washburn (5.02 ERA, 32 Ks in 37 2/3 innings). The anchors of the team's rotation haven't been their expensive marquee starters like Hill, Belcher or Chuck Finley, but retreads like Omar Olivares and Steve Sparks. If the Angels are going to mount any sort of July charge to contend, they're going to have to take a few risks.


Placed RHP Gregg Olson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/23 (back spasms); recalled RHP Bobby Chouinard from Tucson. [7/3]

The next few weeks are pivotal to the future of the franchise. Losing Olson forces the D'backs into a decision: do they take themselves so seriously that they want to trade one of their good pitching prospects to get a closer? Regardless of how seriously you take them, they're in a position to win. But is a closer the make-or-break player that this team needs? The Braves have made do with no-name bullpens, and for all of the money the Snakes have spent on starters, you'd think they could, too.

Basically, I wouldn't send away Brad Penny to get somebody like Ugueth Urbina. The Cubs have made a habit of trying to acquire an established closer, and after a lot of money and several years' worth of grief, they still don't have somebody they trust in the ninth. Meanwhile, the Reds have a half-dozen guys and the Astros have three. If the D'backs are smart, they'll stand pat and see if they can trust the rookie trio and the two veteran lefties.

Bobby Chouinard? How long has it been since he was traded for Harold Baines, anyway? Almost seven years? Well, he does throw strikes (63:13 K/BB ratio in 62 innings), which means he could be handy in a Dave Weathers sort of way...


Activated SS Walt Weiss from the DL; optioned SS Mark DeRosa to Richmond. [7/1]

Placed RHP John Smoltz on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow); recalled LHP Bruce Chen from Richmond. [7/5]

The Braves have been down this road before, and with both Maddux and Glavine pitching better of late, it's more important that they make certain Smoltz can pitch in the playoffs than it is for them to have him around in July. Chen is still as good a pitching prospect as you're going to find, was still pitching well in Richmond (3.77 ERA, 69 hits, 25 walks and 87 Ks in 74 innings), and having him pitch now gives the Braves a live-ammo trial to decide between Chen and Odalis Perez as the fifth starter down the stretch.

Bringing Weiss back is huge. Not because of his OBP (a paltry .330), but because it gets Ozzie Guillen's bat out of the lineup, and even more importantly, his glove off the field. The Braves are having real problems turning double plays. You could have expected some problems as Weiss and Bret Boone got used to playing together, but they'll still be adjusting to one another going into August. Having Guillen out there only made a tough situation miserable almost to the brink of pointlessness. As has been the case throughout the decade, the Braves' taste in bench players leaves something to be desired. That they still have the best record in the league is a testament to the strength of their core talent.


Signed RHP Jim Corsi to a minor-league contract; placed RHP Ricky Bones on the 15-day DL (fatigue); recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Rochester. [7/2]

Whether he's fatigued or just plain old bad, the Orioles reap the bitter fruit of having ever signed a broken-down old mopup man like Ricky Bones in the first place. Molina is a definite upgrade, and he'll be given every opportunity to seize the closer's job from Mike Timlin, which might let Timlin sort out his problems in a setup role. If Timlin does that, he may yet have some trade value.

Adding Corsi is a bit of a surprise, in that other teams could have used him as well. But he's an East Coast guy, and probably wanted to remain close to home.


Placed 3B John Valentin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/27 (post-concussion syndrome); recalled 3B Wilton Veras from Trenton (Double-A). [6/30]

Placed LHP Mark Guthrie on the 15-day DL (strained Achilles tendon); purchased the contract of UT Chad Fonville from Pawtucket; transferred C Scott Hatteberg from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/5]

Losing Valentin at the same time that Nomar Garciaparra was struggling with nagging injuries left the club flat-footed. Valentin has been run down in print lately, but despite the poor start, he's still a good glove and a solid power source. Losing him exposed an organizational problem at third base, at least until they feel Cole Liniak is ready. It's interesting that for all of the Duke's maneuvering, the Sox didn't have a Triple-A vet cooling his heels in Pawtucket. Veras may turn out to be a decent player, but his numbers at Trenton this year (.307/.346/.458, with nine home runs) are the product of repeating the level this year. He still hasn't made progress commanding the strike zone (16 walks in 327 PA), but he has some physical skill at the hot corner.

Calling up Fonville is the ultimate throwaway roster move: nobody but Tommy Lasorda and Fred Claire every really thought he could play, he's been a lousy Pawsock (.240/.295/.274), and whether he makes it through waivers or not when the Sox need to make space for someone useful is completely irrelevant.


Outrighted OF Robin Jennings to Iowa; recalled LHP Ray King from Iowa. [7/3]

Activated RHP Terry Adams from the DL; optioned RHP Kyle Farnsworth to Iowa. [7/4]

Jennings made it through waivers. Will the team make an equally heroic move, and realize that nobody else wants Sandy Martinez? They're still burning a roster spot or two, and Jennings would fill their needs better than Martinez will. Heck, so would Kevin Orie.

In the meantime, the Cubs have temporarily given up on Farnsworth, having rushed him and regretted it. Dan Serafini will get first crack at the rotation spot, which tells you either how seriously the Cubs take themselves at this point, or how out of touch they are with what it might take to fulfill their delusions of postseason grandeur. What's happened with Farnsworth (and Serafini) sort of highlights another one of the drawbacks to having a mini-LaRussian running a ballclub: no kids get to cut their teeth and gain confidence in middle relief roles, because the manager is obsessed with every possible tactical advantage, as opposed to the idea that if he works someone regularly, they'll learn a thing or two and become more valuable. If Farnsworth had been broken in like Scott Williamson or Scott Elarton or even (surprisingly) John Halama, he might have given the Cubs some good innings in middle relief while learning what works, and would have been ready to step into the rotation. Now the Cubs have an unhappy Farnsworth, no fifth starter, no good bullpen, but damned if they don't have a "tactician" clever enough to know to bring in Ray King to face a left-handed batter.


Purchased the contract of RHP Pat Daneker from Birmingham (Double-A); optioned RHP John Snyder to Charlotte; transfered RHP Darren Hall from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/1]

Snyder's struggles went beyond acceptable, and it's simply because the league has adjusted, and Snyder hasn't adjusted back. Everyone seems to agree his delivery is basically fine, his mechanics are fine and his velocity hasn't dropped. He's being demoted because he's been lousy, which seems pretty old-fashioned.

Daneker is a very similar pitcher to Snyder: a four-pitch starter whose bread and butter is the not-overpowering sinker-slider combo. He's a University of Virginia grad with good control (27 walks in 104 2/3 innings, to go with 97 hits allowed, 70 Ks, and a 3.10 ERA). It's interesting that Daneker leapfrogged both Carlos Castillo and Kevin Beirne at Charlotte, but Ron Schueler's been grumbling about what he doesn't like about both of them. The guy who might have to take notes at this point is James Baldwin, whose struggles of late may get him bumped to the pen, since he can't be optioned down.


Outrighted C Chris Turner to Buffalo. [7/2]

Placed RHP Steve Karsay on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/2 (strained oblique); recalled RHP Jeff Tam from Buffalo. [7/3] Placed 3B Travis Fryman on the 15-day DL (damaged knee ligament); recalled SS John McDonald from Buffalo. [7/4]

Optioned OF Mark Whiten and RHP Jeff Tam to Buffalo; recalled OFs Jacob Cruz and Alex Ramirez. [7/6]

An interesting collection of moves, especially with Fryman likely out for most of the season. Will they really move Jim Thome back to third base? Will they play Enrique Wilson at third regularly? Losing Jeff Manto on waivers has created all sorts of interesting possibilities. I'm willing to guess that recalling Cruz and Ramirez means that they'll get the playing time created by Fryman's absence, which means Thome at third, Sexson at first, Justice resting his legs at DH pretty regularly, and even more offensive support for the wobbly rotation.

Where I'm left clutching straws is trying to explain why McDonald's up. Why does a team that has two good glovemen at short (Vizquel and Wilson) need a third? McDonald's made strides offensively this year (a .315 average between Akron and Buffalo), but he still has no power (16 doubles, one home run) and poor patience. He might get to be showcased, because other GMs have heard about his highlight-reel defense. But he'd basically be the new-and-improved version of Rey Ordonez, and how many more of those do we need to see with Deivi Cruz already running around?


Waived C Jeff Reed; recalled LHP Roberto Ramirez from Colorado Springs; optioned Ramirez to Colorado Springs; recalled UT Chris Sexton from Colorado Springs. [7/3]

The Rox are flailing, pure and simple. Reed outside of a mile-high environment is going to struggle, but the really bad news is that no one would take Kirt Manwaring off their hands, meaning they've elected to keep the worst of their catchers and now carry two right-handed-hitting glove men (Manwaring and the immortal Henri Blanco). That means no platoon, and a bad situation made worse.

At least they can add Sexton to their three-headed hydra at second, but that just means it'll be tough for Leyland to find enough playing time for all of them. He isn't well-known for running a great bench; he's actually better known for wasting a roster spot on somebody like John Wehner because he doesn't know what else to do with the last couple of slots. That sort of inflexibility is probably a bigger handicap in Coors than elsewhere.


Placed RHP Masao Kida on the 15-day DL (back strain); recalled RHP Willis Roberts from Toledo. [7/1]

Roberts wasn't pitching well as a Mud Hen (6.48 ERA), but as long as the Tigers are going down, they're going to get to go down with some of Randy Smith's project players. Roberts is a tall, skinny Dominican who throws hard, but he hasn't really gotten a handle on this baseball thing yet, having basically never done well since leaving A-ball after 1996. If Tiger fans thought things were bad, they can get worse.


Placed 3B Kevin Orie on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (partially torn quad). [7/3]

Recalled 2B Amaury Garcia from Calgary. [7/4]

Orie goes down, as he's gone down every year in the last four, giving Mike Lowell a clean shot at the job. Since Orie had been slowing down of late, if Lowell heats up, the Marlins can congratulate themselves on getting pretty solid play out of their third basemen this year. Unfortunately, neither player is good enough to outstrip the other, so if both play well, the Marlins don't have much reason to prefer one to the other.

Garcia was having a banner year in the PCL bandboxes, recently heating up to .313/.360/.554 with 12 home runs. His hope has to be a shot at platooning with Luis Castillo, where he'll get to show off his relatively huge advantage at getting the ball out of the infield.


Placed RHP Sean Bergman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/26 (forearm tightness); purchased the contract of RHP Joe Slusarski from New Orleans. [7/3]

Optioned INF Russ Johnson to New Orleans; recalled RHP Wade Miller from New Orleans. [7/5]

With Bergman going down, Chris Holt's struggles and Mike Hampton's recent wrist injury, Miller is going to have an opportunity to toss some good middle relief innings. Miller throws hard, has a nice slider and was pitching pretty well: a 3.96 ERA, 9-5 record, 99 hits, 39 walks and 88 Ks in 102 1/3 innings. He could possibly wind up like Scott Elarton, in the rotation, or they could simply send him away once Ken Caminiti heals. You'd have to think they're pretty frustrated with Holt at this point, as his ERA creeps back over five.

What's this, Joe Slusarski's back? In the same weekend that saw the returns of Don Wengert and Bobby Chouinard? Who's next, Todd Burns? Nah, he was too good. Johnny Guzman? Dana Allison?


Placed RHP Terry Mathews on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (strained rotator cuff); recalled RHP Don Wengert from Omaha. [7/3]

Placed INF Scott Leius on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder); recalled INF Steve Scarsone from Omaha. [7/4]

Aside from their immediate families and Rany Jazayerli, this sort of stuff... well, I guess the phone company makes a few cents from the phone call, and the guys who make the fabrics for the uniforms make some pin money, and...maybe somebody's feelings are hurt in Omaha. I guess losing Leius might make Muser more insistent in his demands for a defensive replacement at first. Hell, maybe he'll suit up himself, or ask that the team trade for Tom Kelly. What is Mike Squires doing these days, anyways?


Activated SS Mark Grudzielanek from the DL; placed INF Tripp Cromer on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (irregular heartbeat). [7/6]

I don't want to make light of this if Cromer has a real problem, but this seems awfully fishy coming in the wake of Shane Spencer's situation (see below). Grudz' return only kick starts the same defensive problems the Dodgers had with him in the first place, and it isn't like he's going to start hitting like Honus Wagner.


Activated LHP Bill Pulsipher from the DL; optioned RHP Al Reyes to Louisville. [7/3]

Reyes had a 4.25 ERA, which isn't all bad these days for a middle reliever, but he was irritating the bejeezuz out of Phil Garner with his tendency to walk his first batter. I'm certain somebody would love to take a hard-throwing righty off of their hands if he's really so odious to Scrap Iron.

Pulsipher will get a shot at the rotation in the same slot that Cal Eldred and Raffy Roque have abandoned, and is just about as likely as they were to hand it to somebody else by August.


Outrighted RHP Mel Rojas to Ottawa. [7/1]

Recalled RHP Jeremy Powell from Ottawa. [7/2]

Placed LF Rondell White on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); placed OF/1B Orlando Merced on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (strained calf); recalled 3B Jose Fernandez from Ottawa; purchased the contract of OF Terry Jones from Ottawa. [7/3]

Announced that RHP Mel Rojas rejected his assignment to Ottawa, and is entering an enforced retirement of sorts, at the expense of the Tigers. [7/5]

Rondell makes his third trip to the DL, and it reflects how ill-focused the Expos are that they've called up Terry Jones and seem inclined to play him, despite last year's flop and this year's weak hitting (.270/.321/.340). At best, this is a holding pattern until White heals or Peter Bergeron comes up. At worst, the Expos will waste another couple hundred ABs on Jones.

The call-up of Powell basically means that Felipe Alou's had it with Miguel Batista's struggles, at least until they get tired of seeing Dan Smith get knocked around. Powell was having a good season, posting a 2.97 ERA while allowing 85 hits and 37 walks in 91 innings, along with 72 Ks. Calling up Fernandez is interesting because it betrays how far the stars of Wil Guerrero and Shane Andrews have fallen. Jose Vidro's going to play second base, and while Michael Barrett's out, Fernandez is apparently going to get a full-blown crack at third. Like Andrews, he has his limitations afield, but Fernandez can run a little, hit for some power, and was having a decent year in his first full season at Ottawa (.270/.334/.445).


Placed LHP John Franco on the 15-day DL (strained tendon - middle finger); recalled LHP Rigo Beltran from Norfolk. [7/3]

Placed DH Bobby Bonilla on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/3 (stiff...knee); recalled RHP Jason Isringhausen from Norfolk. [7/4]

Losing Franco might be interpreted as some sort of major setback, but Armando Benitez is the better pitcher right now, and Rigo Beltran has been pretty good at both major- and minor-league levels. What's tough for the Mets is what to do about Izzy. He's been dominant at Norfolk (2.29 ERA) and pathetic in the majors (7.30 ERA). If they let him get some success in middle relief, they may yet turn him around, but this is hardly the team or the situation that allows a struggling ex-prospect is going to get a chance to straighten himself out.

Bobby Bo's not on the roster? How will they notice?


Claimed INF Jeff Manto off of waivers from the Indians. [7/2]

Signed LHP Allen Watson to a minor-league contract; placed OF Shane Spencer on the 15-day DL (irregular heartbeat); added INF Jeff Manto to the roster. [7/3]

Manto's a dandy snag, since he can help out against left-handers, and play almost anywhere other than center field or shortstop in a pinch. Losing Spencer just as he was winning the left-field job may finally clear the decks for Ricky Ledee to finally claim the job in left, but the rumors are--naturally enough--swirling that the Yankees want to add a name.


Recalled OF Jason McDonald from Vancouver; placed RHP T.J. Mathews on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation). [7/2]

Mathews was one of the team's most valuable players in the first two months of the season, but his struggles of late were symptomatic of a bullpen-wide implosion that has undermined the A's pursuit of the Rangers. Having returned to an eleven-man staff, they may have to count on Doug Jones, Tim Worrell and Brad Rigby that much more, but I'm hoping this creates a clean shot at the setup job for Chad Harville.

McDonald's return gives Art Howe the flexibility to pinch-hit for Ryan Christenson without automatically having to move Tony Phillips to center field, a tactical gambit that hasn't been too swell so far. In his month-plus of duty at Vancouver, McDonald was hitting well (.326/.420/.504), and he should be a nice fifth outfielder, pinch-runner, and all-around spare part.


Optioned RHP Mike Grace to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; purchased the contract of RHP Steve Schrenk from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; placed LHP Yorkis Perez on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Joe Grahe from Scranton/Wilkes Barre; transferred SS Desi Relaford from the 15- to 60-day DL. [7/2]

I guess I'm just shocked that not only are Joe Grahe and Steve Schrenk both still pitching, but they both came up on the same weekend as the Wengerts and the Chouinards and the Slusarskis. Naturally, the media should have a field day with complaints about "expansion pitching". It was ten years ago that both were both considered prospects. Grahe was the closer at the University of Miami, and Schrenk was considered one of the best pitching prospects the White Sox had. Lots of bad--and some good--pitching and several injuries later, here they both are, after their 30th birthdays, on the Phillies.

This is Grahe's first major league action since 1995, and he wasn't doing so hot as a closer for Scranton. This is Schrenk's major league debut, and I'm glad for him that he finally made it. He was pitching solidly as a middle man, posting a 2.93 ERA, but with 21 walks in 43 innings; he doesn't have the velocity he had when Reagan was president. They're an interesting pair of characters to have floating around at the back end of the bullpen, but the Phillies should continue to use Wayne Gomes as their closer, and rely on Jim Poole or Amaury Telemaco in setup roles, although Perez will be missed.

As for Mike Grace, when you pitch like crap in a garbage time role, that's the definition of a guy who should lose his job to lifers like Grahe or Schrenk.


Recalled LHP Jimmy Anderson from Nashville; placed LHP Jeff Wallace on the 15-day DL (fatigued shoulder). [7/3]

Placed C Jason Kendall on the 15-day DL (broken & dislocated ankle); recalled C Yamid Haad from Altoona (Double-A). [7/5]

Placed 1B Ivan Cruz on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); purchased the contract of UT John Wehner from Nashville; transferred C Jason Kendall from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]

Like everyone else, I really, really hope that medicine has gotten to the point that Jason Kendall can come back as the player he's been so far. Bucs fans are already muttering about Rennie Stennett and his very similar--and in that case, career-altering--injury. Let's just say this is sort of thing that could kill the Pirates' mad dash at respectability this year. Haad is an emergency call-up; the Pirates are expected to either snap up Jeff Reed or trade for a body to use along with Keith Osik behind the plate.

As for calling up Anderson, the gaudy 11-1 record exaggerates his effectiveness. He's a control artist and something of a soft-tosser, but a 3.86 ERA isn't bad, and anything has to be better than Jose Silva nowadays.

Wehner's back in a Pirates' uniform? Jim Leyland must be jealous.


Placed RHP Heathcliff Slocumb on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/23 (strained shoulder); recalled CF J.D. Drew from Memphis. [6/30]

This means that finally the Cardinals have someone who can physically play center field. As much as everyone's said Drew's struggled so far, he's slugging almost .500 in the playing time he has had. This is a straightforward improvement, offensively and defensively, and may yield big rewards for a pitching staff that needs all the help in the field that it can get.


Placed C Greg Myers on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/29 (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Carlos Almanzar from Las Vegas. [6/30]

We always get to hear about the shortage of catchers, almost as much as we get to hear about the shortage of pitching. So let's see: the Padres have lost Jim Leyritz, Greg Myers, and Carlos Hernandez, three pretty useful guys who are all major-league calibre catchers. We've got thirty major league teams, so the shortage of catchers should be at an all-time high, right? Except that the Pads have überprospect Ben Davis looking like he's ready to play major league baseball right now, and Phil Nevin's looking pretty handy with ten homeruns. Sure, the Padres are extraordinary in this respect, and several teams would be glad to have any one of their Pads' five catchers. But if you're upset that your team has (insert Matt Walbeck's name here), remember that that's a question of taste or the lack of it, not a product of some catching shortage.


Placed 3B Charlie Hayes on the 15-day DL (wrist); recalled INF Ramon Martinez from Fresno. [7/3]

Hayes has been worse than decrepit this season, having a year that puts Gary Gaetti's to shame. With J.T. Snow doing adequately against left-handers while batting left-handed, Hayes' platoon role has shrunk. With Bill Mueller back, his playing time at third has evaporated as well. Losing him isn't the worst thing that's happened to the Giants this year.


Outrighted RHP Melvin Bunch to Tacoma; recalled LHP Damaso Marte from Tacoma. [6/30]

Guess what, Marte wasn't pitching well in Tacoma. Does it matter? Hell no! In the shadow of Mt. Piniella, anybody gets to pitch for the Mariners, sometimes for as long as a week at a time.


Activated RHP Esteban Loaiza from the DL; sent RHP Danny Kolb to Oklahoma. [7/4]

Loaiza's return has become less urgent with John Burkett running off a streak of solid starts, but nonetheless, the Rangers can also look forward to putting him in should they tire of Ryan Glynn or once Mike Morgan has to take another one of his DL sabbaticals. With almost every Rangers' starter having problems getting through the sixth inning, there should be plenty of middle relief work for Loaiza in the meantime.

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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