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May 16, 2000

Transaction Analysis

May 11-14, 2000

by Christina Kahrl


Activated RHP Kevin McGlinchy from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Kerry Ligtenberg to Richmond. [5/13]

Just your basic good idea. Ligtenberg needs to regain control of his breaking stuff to pitch effectively in the majors, and not even the Braves can afford to fool around with a rehab project. Now that Kevin McGlinchy is back, the Braves have a pen featuring two quality left-handers (John Rocker and Mike Remlinger), two veteran right-handers (Rudy Seanez and Greg McMichael) and two good future starting pitchers (McGlinchy and Bruce Chen).

Of that group, they only developed three of them, swiping Seanez and McMichael off the scrap heap, and nabbing Remlinger in the Denny Neagle trade. It should still say something about the Braves that they're getting good work out of Seanez and McMichael when few other teams ever have or could.


Transferred CF Eugene Kingsale from the 15- to 60-day DL. [5/12]

Activated C Willie Morales from the DL and optioned him to Rochester. [5/13]


Placed SS Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled UT Donnie Sadler from Pawtucket. [5/12]

It couldn't be a worse time to lose Nomar Garciaparra. The Yankees are scuffling, which gives the Sox an ideal opportunity to open a four- or five-game lead while the guys in pinstripes continue to pretend their offensive problems will just go away somehow.

The Red Sox have done well so far because of the breadth of offensive contributions they've gotten from just about everyone not named Jose Offerman; once he gets going and Garciaparra returns, the Red Sox could be one of the top four offensive teams in the league. It's a bit soon to start worrying about double-think, things like if the Sox get a lead now, wouldn't that encourage the Yankees to do something bold to fix their offensive problems, which would only make Beantown's lot in life that much tougher?

In Nomar's absence, they'll have to continue to thrive on what's really fueled their success so far: a rotation floating on decent little five-inning outings from the non-Pedros backed by great multi-inning relief work from Derek Lowe, Rich Garces and Tim Wakefield. Essentially, everyone not named Pedro gets the Saberhagen treatment.

It's a riff of sorts on what the Reds and White Sox did last season, by concentrating as many high-leverage innings as possible on their good relievers while avoiding losses from tiring starters or tenth or 11th pitchers. It means keeping the workload spread among your best eight or nine pitchers and not getting caught up in LaRussian roleplaying. In a high-offense era, it's the best adaptation possible for a team with Pedro Martinez and four nice fourth starters.


Placed 1B Mark Grace on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled 1B Julio Zuleta from Iowa; designated LHP Andrew Lorraine for assignment; recalled RHP Todd Van Poppel from Iowa. [5/11]

Acquired OF Dave Martinez from the Devil Rays for LHP Mark Guthrie and cash. [5/12]

What do these moves really end up doing? Julio Zuleta will only platoon with Willie Greene, with Shane Andrews flip-flopping between the corners, so that hardly adds much offensively. Dave Martinez is a nicely-aged outfielder who can't really play center field regularly, so he doesn't change any of the problems the Cubs would have had if they'd kept Rosie Brown on the roster. With the Corey Patterson boosters already preparing for an August call-up (gotta delay arbitration by a year if possible, after all), nabbing Martinez might have made sense if the Cubs were striving to contend in the meantime, but this team was never good enough to do much more than wrestle the Brewers over a return engagement with the cellar.

What's really silly about it is that while Martinez's fielding stats as a center fielder have been decidedly subpar lately, Ed Lynch claimed that Rich Becker wasn't an option because of his glovework. While it's unreasonable to expect a repeat of past banditry from every GM, in a world where Dan Plesac might fetch you Tony Batista, Lynch managed to turn a veteran left-hander into a 35-year-old utility oufielder who won't make the difference between fifth and sixth right now, let alone be someone who might help do something two or three years down the road.

What these moves really highlight is how badly the Cubs evaluate personnel and design their roster. It's currently chic to bash Ed Lynch as the man solely responsible, but Lynch didn't make Don Baylor carry four left-handed relievers. Now the Cubs are down to a more appropriate two (Felix Heredia and Daniel Garibay), and could lose Andrew Lorraine on waivers or as a free agent.

While I think Todd Van Poppel is a worthwhile project as a reliever, the team is already saddled with the flickering embers of Rick Aguilera's career, career scrub Brian Williams and Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth's participation is perhaps the most tragic. Pitching coach Oscar Acosta is blubbering about his great no-motion fastball, and denying that the kid should even worry about tossing anything that wiggles. As good as his fastball is supposed to be, it doesn't have the movement of a Ryan Anderson fastball or even the Eric Plunk or Scott Garrelts models. It isn't as good as Dave Stewart's straight-as-string heat was before Stewart learned he needed a forkball to survive in the majors; it isn't as good as Rob Dibble's or Rich Gossage's cheese before they learned they needed to use their slider consistently. Yet the Cubs claim to know that Farnsworth is so good that he doesn't have to do something as basic as master a breaking pitch.


Recalled RHP Osvaldo Fernandez from Louisville. [5/13]

Because the Reds already made the smart choice and handed the fifth starter slot to Rob Bell, Osvaldo Fernandez is who they have to go to now that Pete Harnisch is out. There really isn't all that much to recommend Fernandez over minor-league vet Larry Luebbers, other than that he's Cuban and we can't seem to get enough of that in the news these days.


Outrighted C Bobby Hughes to Buffalo. [5/11]

Activated CF Kenny Lofton and RHP Bartolo Colon from the DL; designated RHP Bobby Witt for assignment; outrighted OF Mark Whiten to Buffalo. [5/12]

Kenny Lofton's return may be too soon, but the Tribe is awakening to the fact that this year an AL Central title is far from guaranteed, and just as they may have rushed him back from the shoulder injury, they may be rushing him back this time.

I could find fault with John Hart's failure to sign a more useful minor league veteran outfielder or two over the winter: Mark Whiten has no defensive value as a center fielder, and Lance Johnson was even more finished than Whiten is. But the farm system also hasn't produced much in the way of center-field talent, which helps to explain past trades for minor-league outfielders like David Roberts and Dan McKinley to fill the position in the system. Trading a spare shortstop like John McDonald (destined for little more than fame as the next Doug Baker) for a spare jackrabbit for center field might make sense.

Bartolo Colon will need to be watched closely to see if his conditioning really is becoming an issue, because otherwise the missed time isn't such a bad thing for his long-term health. Since it looks like Dick Pole has Jaret Wright back on track, the Tribe's never-ending ace quest looks like it will be filled internally by Colon and Wright after all. That only begs the question of why it took so long to sift through people like Phil Regan first before finally bringing in a pitching coach with a track record of success instead of just a reputation.

As for cutting loose Bobby Witt, one of the nice things about saddling your roster with washed-up veteran lard is that you can cut it loose and not miss it. Picking him up made little sense at the time, and the results were consistent with previous wasted time and space spent on Tom Candiotti and Mark Langston. No truth to the rumor that Hart is trying to find Doug Drabek. Not yet, anyway.


Placed RF Larry Walker on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/11 (elbow); purchased the contract of OF Bubba Carpenter from Colorado Springs; transferred RHP Jerry Dipoto from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/13]

While you can expect Larry Walker to go to the DL about as regularly as you can expect the sunrise, it doesn't make it any easier to accept. What's strange is the decision to call up Bubba Carpenter, of all people. Angel Echevarria had a solid year on the Rox bench last season, and because of the available regular playing time now that Walker is gone for at least a month, would have been a nice choice. Instead, it seems as if they'll hand the at-bats to Darren Bragg and the bench job to Carpenter, and that shouldn't inspire hope anywhere but among Pad people hoping to get out of the basement.


Placed 1B Tony Clark on the 15-day DL (strained rib cage); recalled DH Gabe Alvarez from Toledo. [5/13]

Tony Clark's struggle with adequacy is a reflection of the offensive era we're in. Normally, you hear about a first baseman who's popped 30 or more taters for three straight seasons, and you might confuse him with a young Fred McGriff. Instead, at his best Clark is sort of a latter-day Leon Durham or Greg Walker, a nice player in a league filled with better ones at his position; it says a lot about the Tigers that he's one of their best players.

Clark's slow starts might make for a handy scapegoat for another pathetic Tigers season, but his shortcomings are only symptomatic of the organization's bigger problem: the inability to identify top-notch offensive talent at either the minor- or major-league levels. A good case in point is Gabe Alvarez, another slugger of limited offensive skill and significant defensive shortcomings.


Purchased the contracts of RHPs Jason Grilli and Joe Strong from Calgary; placed RHP Ricky Bones on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/6 (lounge chair accident); placed OF Mark Smith on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); purchashed LHP Ron Mahay from the Athletics. [5/11]

Placed 3B Mike Lowell on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/13 (thumb muscle); purchased the contract of IF Chris Clapinski from Calgary. [5/14]

Ricky Bones managed to hurt himself in time to miss his first start, which was probably the best way to keep his season looking good. In his absence, the Marlins get to take a peek at Jason Grilli to see if they will get anything of value out of the Livan Hernandez trade. Of course, it's too soon to say; Grilli has talent and hasn't done a great job of translating that into results. He made it to the Pacific Coast League as a 21-year-old, and honing your craft in Calgary is no easy thing. He may get to stick around, if only because Vladimir Nunez has been so terrible that an extended visit to middle relief is necessary.

The amazing story of Joe Strong is even more amusing if you're someone, like me, who can remember when he was sort of a prospect, along with other corny names like Will Schock or the infamous Darrel Akerfelds. The current claim, just like that made last summer for Jim Morris, is that he throws well over 90 mph despite his age, and in this age where fast gun readings are accepted as literal truths, it might even be true.

Hopefully Mike Lowell won't be down for long, if only because it may put a crimp in his claim for the token Marlin spot on the All-Star team. Ryan Dempster might have the best shot at the moment, but a few bad starts could kill his bid pretty easily. If Dan Miceli continues having such a great season, I think it would be pretty cool to hand him a spot on behalf of middle relievers everywhere.


Activated OF Moises Alou from the DL; optioned OF Lance Berkman to New Orleans. [5/14]

Lance Berkman didn't get called up to sit. He also didn't end up staking a strong claim in his two weeks, hitting a mere .222/.317/.333 in this admittedly brief trial. The Astros still have an ugly choice--one they're likely to continue to procrastinate over in the hope that a decision won't be necessary--whether or not to trade Berkman, Moises Alou or Daryle Ward for ammo for this year.

The question is what goal a trade would serve: to catch the Cardinals, or add talent for the future? They're probably better off procrastinating: if a contender needs Alou and the Astros feel they can part with him, they might get a better deal waiting until July 31; if they're still only five games away from the lead in July and need pitching, then they have two outstanding young hitters to peddle, and several bad teams should want either Ward or Berkman over almost any other player they might be able to acquire.


Placed RHP Jim Bruske on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Hector Ramirez from Indianapolis. [5/14]

As long as Davey Lopes has done Jim Bruske the favor of giving him service time, Bruske ought to be glad to keep getting it while on the DL. Hector Ramirez will get mop-up opportunities, which means he might get to pitch as much as middle men like Juan Acevedo or Curtis Leskanic because of the scarcity of Brewer leads.


Activated RHP Mike Thurman from the DL; placed RHP Ugueth Urbina on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/9 (bone chips - elbow). [5/12]

Optioned 3B Michael Barrett to Ottawa; recalled RHP Antonio Armas from Ottawa. [5/13]

Hand it to Felipe Alou: he's nothing if not flexible. Having lost Ugueth Urbina for at least a month, and still driven by the tantalizing goal of a wild-card berth, les Expos are jumbling everything all at once so that they can have a messed-up rotation and bullpen all at once.

Replacing Urbina as closer is Dustin Hermanson, the team's best starter. The math of it never really makes sense: a good shot at a quality start every fifth day, or two or three innings every five days when you have as many outs to get as you are runs up on your opponent. In Hermanson's absence, the rotation is now made up of Hideki Irabu, Javier Vazquez, Carl Pavano, Antonio Armas and Mike Thurman. That's still a solid rotation, but it would be better with Hermanson starting and any one of the other five in the pen instead.

As further proof of their motivation to win now, they've banished Michael Barrett. This is already turning into another classic case of how a prospect should not be handled: you shouldn't keep flipping him between positions and you shouldn't have him skip levels while doing it. Barrett already suffered from a dubious command of the strike zone, making his chances of fulfilling the hype that much tougher, but the organization's indecision hardly helps.

In his absence, the Expos are going to play a platoon at third base, probably giving Andy Tracy most of the playing time, and flipping in Trace Coquillette or Mike Mordecai as needed. It's a move that's peculiarly Expo-like, with Expo results: they've quit on a prospect who's struggling at the plate and in the field to put in a non-prospect with no defensive skills at third base while hoping it will help the offense. We've seen it first with Brad Fullmer and now Michael Barrett, and if the Expos really do pick up Rickey Henderson, we'll see it again with Peter Bergeron.


Released OF Rickey Henderson; placed UT Melvin Mora on the 15-day DL (lacerated index finger); recalled 2B/OF Joe McEwing from Norfolk; purchased the contract of 1B Mark Johnson from Norfolk. [5/13]

Is anyone else revolted by the hypocrisy of listening to either Bobby Valentine or Steve Phillips lament that keeping Rickey Henderson around would "compromise our ideals"? Coming from the man in the fake mustache and Mr. Footloose & Fancy-Free, that might be high praise indeed.

Unfortunately, too much of this is playing out in stereotypes, but Henderson has never had a consistent problem with white managers. While he gets lambasted for loafing by the likes of these two goofs, it seems interesting to remember that Henderson's interactions with his managers don't contain any neat patterns as far as who he liked or disliked or played better for or worse.

The manager he loved playing for most was a genuine mean old bastard, Billy Martin, and the others he's had kind words for have been grandfatherly old Steve Boros, as well as Tom Trebelhorn from their time together in the minors. You couldn't pick three more dissimilar people, let alone managers, other than that each came with a reputation of dealing with their players in a direct manner, and they all liked the running game. Neither a press-conference warrior like Valentine or a short-fused berserker like Lou Piniella worked well with Rickey, and given their numerous failures with considerable payrolls and talent, I'm not going to chalk this up as a situation where the forces of sunshine and wisdom and righteousness are all on one side of the fight.

Henderson will continue to play because he can still do what he does best: get on base. The Yankees could certainly use him, and wouldn't that be a handsome kettle of fish? He's always made it plain that he prefers to play in New York or California, to accomodate his wife or his mother, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Mets reshuffle the bench again. They're still without a real center fielder and their lineup still leans heavily to the right, so they still haven't really fixed their problems. Mark Johnson (of the big leg kick, not the catcher) at least gives them a slightly different flavor of left-handed pinch-hitter from Matt Franco: low-average thumper versus contact hitter. It probably doesn't hurt that he's another minor-league vet with Japanese Leagues experience. I think it's more likely that Phillips and Valentine collect these guys because they'll put up and shut up than because of any familiarity with bushido.


Recalled LHP Rich Sauveur from Sacramento; optioned RHP Ariel Prieto to Sacramento; sold the contract of LHP Ron Mahay to the Marlins. [5/11]

Activated RHP Kevin Appier from the 15-day DL; optioned IF Frank Menechino to Sacramento. [5/13]

Ugh. When you decide to go to 12 pitchers, the 13 position players you're keeping had all better be able to play baseball. Unfortunately, Billy Beane and Art Howe decided to keep Jorge Velandia over Frank Menechino, because the organization doesn't have anyone else like Velandia: absolutely devoid of any offensive talent at all. Imagine a team where the worst player is so much worse than everyone else it's nothing short of spectacular, and you've got...well, obviously Rey Ordonez, but Velandia too.

So now they're keeping a spare mopup man (Luis Vizcaino) and a utility infielder you don't want to use if you can possibly avoid it. All things considered, I'd rather have Vizcaino, Menechino and Adam Piatt on the roster, T.J. Mathews on the DL for chronic potateritis, and Velandia winning the PCL Best Defensive Shortstop award in Baseball America's annual Tools Survey.

On the happier side of things, the A's decided to go young by bringing up 36-year-old Rich Sauveur. Young at 36? Considering what Ariel Prieto's real age might be, and how many years older than that the joints in his right arm are thanks to surgery and years of service for Team Cuba, it looks like a youth movement to me. Not to mention that Sauveur is one of the game's great survivors, a quality left-handed reliever who's been consistently good as a situational man at the Triple-A level for years, usually passed over because of his age and lack of any long-term affiliations. He's probably an improvement on Mike Magnante, and gives the pen a handy second lefty for situational uses.


Placed 1B Rico Brogna on the 15-day DL (fractured forearm); purchased the contract of 1B Chris Pritchett from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/11]

Now here's a conundrum: the Phillies' season is going down the tubes, and one of the only potentially good things that could happen to them--making Rico Brogna go away--finally comes up. The obvious move is to call up Pat Burrell and get acquainted with a better and happier future, right? Wrong. The Phillies want to avoid letting Burrell become a two-plus year arbitration-eligible player, which means waiting another couple of months until they can feel certain Burrell won't qualify. That gives them another year to ink him to a long-term deal after he does come up, without his having the hammer of arbitration to hinder negotiations. Sure, the Phillies are probably being greedy bastards, to the point that it's more important to avoid this kind of financial risk than it is to do something that might improve the team.

Chris Pritchett isn't weeping over this sort of thing; this is one of the only ways he'll even get as much major league playing time as somebody like Gene Schall or Jon Zuber. But just as I hold the Phillies accountable, I can't help but blame the Players' Association as well. This is a situation where the fans of the Phillies are going to end up getting crummier baseball, all because of the CBA. The idea that the quality of play or ability to play is not a factor in determining who's on the roster is something that ought to be unacceptable, especially for the really hopeless teams like this one.


Placed RHP Francisco Cordova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/5 (elbow inflammation); recalled LHP Brian O'Connor from Altoona (Double-A). [5/11]

Optioned LHP Brian O'Connor to Altoona (Double-A). [5/14]

Francisco Cordova's turn in the rotation only comes up once between the 5th and the 20th, when he should be eligible to be reactivated. Brian O'Connor came up for that start because he was available and on the 40-man roster. He took his beating and he went back to the Eastern League.


Placed RHP Rodney Myers on the 60-day DL (torn patellar tendon); optioned RHP Rodrigo Lopez to Las Vegas; outrighted RHP Vicente Palacios to Las Vegas; recalled RHP Brandon Kolb and purchased the contracts of RHP Stan Spencer and RHP Matt Whiteside from Las Vegas. [5/12]

Who's going to end up being the fifth starter? Now that the Pads have lost Woody Williams as well as Carlton Loewer as well as Brian Boehringer, and demoted Rodrigo Lopez, God only knows, but they won't have to pick one until Saturday. Stan Spencer is already the fourth starter after a good month at Vegas. I'm one of those goofs who thinks they ought to give Will Cunnane a shot, or at least Wascar Serrano for the name, but I suspect Lopez will be back.

In the meantime, the Pads have two extra mop-up men in Matt Whiteside and Brandon Kolb to back up mop-up man Carlos Almanzar, and with this rotation, there's been a lot of mopping up to do.


Placed OF Ellis Burks on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/9 (strained quadriceps); purchased the contract of OF Terrell Lowery from Fresno. [5/13]

While losing Ellis Burks to an injury is no more extraordinary than losing Reggie Sanders, it comes at a bad moment for the Giants, as Barry Bonds is going to be out for the week. In The absence of both of their corner outfielders going into a series against the Braves, Dusty Baker can at least take heart that he's got a pretty flexible group of four to pick his outfield from: Marvin Benard and Armando Rios both hit left-handed with a bit of sock and patience, and Calvin Murray and Terrell Lowery have shown plenty of power against left-handed pitching in the minors. All four of them can play center field, and Felipe Crespo might even get a start or two in a corner. It isn't as desperate a situation as having to play somebody like John Mabry.


Recalled RHP Kevin Hodges from Tacoma; optioned UT Charles Gipson to Tacoma. [5/11]

Activated OF/1B John Mabry from the DL; optioned C Joe Oliver to Tacoma. [5/12]

In case anyone's noticing, this means the Mariners are effectively going without a utility infielder; they can flip Mark McLemore and David Bell between second base and third base and sort of use Carlos Guillen as the utility infielder when he isn't starting. Meanwhile, the M's will continue to pretend that John Mabry can play third base because he has stood in that area of the field before.

The payoff is that Piniella gets to carry a third right-handed long reliever, Kevin Hodges, behind Frankie Rodriguez and Jose Paniagua. He's losing faith in Paniagua, one of his few success stories, which you had to expect given Piniella's history of staff mismanagement.


Acquired LHP Mark Guthrie and cash from the Cubs for OF Dave Martinez; recalled OF Jose Guillen from Durham. [5/12]

Added LHP Mark Guthrie to the 25-man roster; recalled OF Quinton McCracken from Durham; optioned LHP Jim Morris to Durham; designated IF Tony Graffanino for assignment. [5/13]

Jim Morris wasn't working out that badly as a situational left-hander, so it seems strange that the D-Rays would cash in on their relative wealth of fourth outfielders just to nab a different one.

It makes even less sense given that they decided to shake up the roster to bring up two replacements for Dave Martinez at the expense of Tony Graffanino, who probably deserves to be starting ahead of Miguel Cairo and certainly has more use than the gloveless, legless and hitless Ozzie Guillen. What having Guillen and Quinton McCracken around probably means is that Bubba Trammell isn't going to be handed the right-field job he earned years ago, and that Steve Cox will continue to rot on the bench, watching the moldering senescence of Fred McGriff that somebody in the Tampa-St. Pete metropolitan area is supposed to want to pay to see.


Signed C Randy Knorr to a minor-league contract. [5/12]

A nice depth-related pickup. While Bill Haselman is the better defensive player, the Rangers could swap him and Randy Knorr for little appreciable difference in performance. Courtesy of Pudge Rodriguez playing 95% of the time, of course.


Activated OF Shannon Stewart from the 15-day DL; optioned OF Andy Thompson to Syracuse. [5/14]

While the Red Sox ought to envy the Jays for having had to briefly keep Gary Gaetti instead of retaining Marty Cordova, the Jays managed to get a brief reminder that Andy Thompson is ready to be a better player than Cordova ever will be again. But remember, this team's problems aren't with talent, it's all that weak Canadian dollar that must have just recently snuck up on a franchise that seemed to have forgotten at some point that it was north of the border.

Snide comments aside, the really good news is that Shannon Stewart is back. The Jays aren't really that far behind either the Yankees and Red Sox, and arguably have better internal options as far as self-improvement if they choose.

The easiest patch is going to be fifth starter. Lance Painter can't last and Frank Castillo is a scar, so barring a trade, the Jays have to hope one of Peter Munro, Gary Glover or John Sneed suddenly turns the corner.

We'll conclude with a pair of kudos to alert readers. First, to Phil Ponebshek and Rick Diamant, for reminding me that when it comes to bad trades and the Snakes, I shouldn't have left out last spring's big-time turkey move of trading Tony Batista and John Frascatore for Dan Plesac. That should be the easy winner in the brief history of the franchise, and shame on me for forgetting it.

Second, a thank you to reader Tim Sadenwasser for pointing out that I failed to give credit where credit was due: Eric Plunk wasn't slagged last September by Phil Garner, but by interim manager Jim Lefebvre. In case anyone else is as unhappy about Tommy Lasorda being named manager of Team USA (what right-thinking team is going to let one of their prospects pitch for the great-arm slagger himself?), keep in mind that one of the chief alternatives was none other than Jim Lefebvre, an untalented mismanager of a pitching staff himself.

Always feel free to write in with your comments, responses or reminders of my fallibility, because I appreciate the lot.

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

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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