March 7, 2002
Transaction Analysis, February 16-March 5, 2002
Signed LHP Buddy Groom to a two-year contract extension with a club option for 2005. [2/25]
Now, I know that cost certainty for your left-handed set-up man can be a good thing. For a non-contender like the Orioles, that certainty could help make that pitcher a little more valuable to a team that would rather not trade for a rental, and not trade for somebody they might have to non-tender or arbitrate with over the following winter. That sort of move makes all sorts of sense if you're a major-league baseball team, and you're hoping to be a good major-league team within the natural lifespan of anyone reading this.
If you're the Orioles, though, you're paying because you really, really like having Buddy Groom, your horizons don't extend beyond last summer, and spending as much as $11 million or so to have Buddy Groom around for the next four seasons--and beyond his fortieth birthday--doesn't seem like such a big deal after all the money spent on The Albert Belle Insurance Boondoggle.
Groom is a useful reliever, but that isn't the point. Groom is also the same guy who was a Tigers, Marlins, and Athletics discard, and his core skills (lefty, doesn't throw hard) are about as common as a stray tabby. On that level, you hate to have to pay for one of the damned things, especially when there's usually a kid with a box of them in the parking lot, but generally speaking, it's nice having them around. Anybody want to guess how much Peter Angelos would pay for an envelope full of sea monkeys? How about an envelope that you said was full of sea monkeys, with an option to provide sea monkeys later?
Signed 3B-R Andy Morales to a minor-league contract. [2/20]
Fired general manager Dan Duquette; named Mike Port interim general manager. [2/28]
I won't miss the Duke, in no small part because as a manager, he did all of the things that you shouldn't do to your subordinates. A boss doesn't have to be a good-time Charlie and everybody's buddy, but he does need to be able to command the respect and trust of his underlings and employees. The Duke inspired fear and loathing when he wasn't generating outright contempt.
The question, from my perspective, is whether or not he can be rehabilitated, because there's reason to believe he can be a good GM, but just as much reason to have serious reservations about hiring him to be yours. This isn't a Cam Bonifay situation, where there's no reason to ever turn over a franchise to the guy ever again. The Duke has had his share of successes, and it would be interesting to see what he would do with a franchise where he'd have to rebuild almost everything, like the Devil Rays.
It might be crazy to try to extend any sympathy to the man, but how he was whacked, and how Joe Kerrigan was treated, was simply pathetic. Look, I know it makes sense to wait until the sale is final and all, but the John Henry/Tom Werner/Larry Lucchino group was in the saddle weeks ago. Why wait this long to make changes? Because John Harrington doesn't want to be the guy giving the bad news? Or worse yet, because the new guys got off on the power trip of pulling the trigger themselves? I would think that the day-to-day operations of the club, and going into camp with a clean slate, would be the primary goal in this situation.
We should feel especially bad for Kerrigan. One of the better pitching coaches of his generation, he never should have been put into the manager's role last summer.
Then again, what options did the Sox have? Bringing up Gary Jones from Pawtucket would have been daring and worthwhile, considering Jones looks like he'll be a good manager, but it also would have placed new ownership in the uncomfortable situation of having to decide whether to retain or fire a minority manager not of their own choosing. You weren't going to get Ken Macha or Grady Little away from their employers in the middle of a pennant race. The Sox faced this sort of situation in 1988, when they replaced John McNamara with Joe Morgan, not because Morgan was the best candidate for the job, but because he was available.
At the end of the day, they probably should have given somebody like Buck Showalter a call, because handing the job to Kerrigan cost them a solid pitching coach down the stretch, and placed an obviously unqualified man in the manager's seat. For the sake of the Red Sox, I hope Kerrigan is willing to set this morass aside and return to the job as pitching coach that he has handled so well for almost five seasons.
Why has Andy Morales been signed? Apparently Katie Couric thinks Cubans, even the old ones, are just cute as buttons. Martha Stewart has literally dozens of ways to adaptively re-use them, either as centerpieces for the dining room that needs just a touch of Latin zest, or as the base of a dual-purpose broth that nourishes and removes stains.
Morales is still litigating against the Yankees for their being appropriately angry with him for lying about his age in the process of wheedling a contract. His defense will apparently rely heavily on the notion that he was cut because he sucked eggs. It should make for a fine precedent in the always-cheery realm of player-management relations.
Agreed to terms on a one-year contract with RHP Scott Williamson, avoiding arbitration. [2/19]
Agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension through 2005 (with a club option for 2006) with 1B-L Sean Casey; announced the resignation of first-base coach Ken Griffey Sr. to become a special consultant to the GM; named Jose Cardenal first-base coach. [2/22]
Sean Casey's contract is another Carl Lindner special: good citizenship matters, and talent considerations play an important secondary role to political ones, especially with Great American Ballpark in the offing. Casey has value, but it's worth remembering that he has made no progress in the last couple of years in terms of power or getting on base; if anything, he's gotten worse in the two seasons that should have been his prime. If there's good news, it's that Casey is young enough and good enough to provide value in the early years of the deal, and still "cheap" enough to be considered very, very valuable to a team like the Dodgers, who don't have a major-league-caliber first baseman.
I can't help but wonder whether the real story behind Ken Griffey Sr.'s resignation has nothing to do with his son. A lot of reporters have sort of seamlessly equated this situation with sour grapes from Ron Oester (who should be cranky, because he blew his chance) or Pokey Reese (ditto), and how that's all tied to questions about why Ken Griffey Jr. isn't a leader or the new Frank Robinson or whatever it is he's supposed to be besides a great ballplayer.
It seems to me that what writers should be asking about is the relationship between Griffey Sr. and Bob Boone. Nobody's saying boo about whether or not Boone might have been the problem, but what else are we supposed to think when Ken Griffey Sr. won't rule out coaching for another organization? Now, Boone does operate under the heavy burden of honestly believing he's the smartest man he knows, and that can make it difficult for mere mortals to work with him. But he is also one of the most garrulous people in the game today, and that's just too sweet a source of burbling daily content to pass up for a working stiff on the beat.
So why ask if Bob Boone might have been a significant part of the problem, when that might alienate somebody who gives you content--whether it's true or ridiculous, what does that matter?--and doing the things that a notionally independent journalist is supposed to do? Where's the payoff in that? Next thing you know, you might have to write an actual game story, and then your editor will freak out, because you didn't write a story where the game was merely an arch between the pre-game comments and the post-game comments.
Signed RHP Mark Thompson to a minor-league contract. [2/25]
The Rockies got caught in a roster crunch, needing to clear a roster spot for Pete Harnisch, which forced them to dump Kane Davis for somebody who wasn't on somebody else's 40-man roster. Enter Corey Brittan, a 56th-round pick and minor-league set-up man with decent control and solid results. Brittan isn't a prospect, just an arm, and relatively interchangeable with Davis in the sense that Davis was just a minor-league arm of no repute as recently as last spring. For the Rockies, it's the best that could be done under the circumstances. With the gaggle of pitchers likely to be crowded out of the rotation (Scott Elarton, for example), jobs in the bullpen weren't going to be easy to come by, and better to dump a replaceable commodity like Davis than try to slip somebody really worthwhile through waivers.
Yes, this is that Mark Thompson, coming back from three shoulder surgeries, one elbow surgery, and three knee surgeries. He's already familiar with the Colorado Springs area.
Named Mike Veeck marketing and promotions consultant. [2/19]
Agreed to terms with UT-B Jose Macias on a two-year contract, squelching arbitration. [2/20]
I realize there's a significant human interest story as far as Mike Veeck is concerned, but in the simple, straightforward proposition of what he does for a baseball team, this is not a good move for the Tigers. Veeck's last contribution was helping to turn the Devil Rays from an expansion baseball team looking for an image into an expansion baseball team that was about as ticky-tack and bush league in how it presented itself as you could imagine, fostering an image that will probably haunt the franchise for as long as it's the Devil Rays and plays in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. I mean, at least William Frazee's No, No Nanette was successful on its own terms, whatever it meant for the historic legacy of baseball in Boston.
Veeck exemplifies everything that's wrong with in-game entertainment in baseball today, where the marketing campaigns and the promotions reflect a mixture of fear of and contempt for the product. The Devil Rays were broken from day one, but Veeck helped turn them from bad joke to Tom Arnold unfunny. Now he'll have the opportunity to do that to another team at an important, fragile moment for the local team's profile within its community.
Signed/acquired/accepted OF-R Mark Smith as a Montreal refugee. [2/18]
Signed OF-B Tim Raines to a minor-league contract with a spring-training NRI. [2/19]
If there's a way for Billy McMillon to get jobbed, count on the three hags of Fate to find it. Mark Smith can be a useful enough fifth outfielder, and Tim Raines is good copy and was even pretty handy last year, but he's also overtaxed as anything more than a fifth outfielder. With Eric Owens already hanging around, that means that McMillon should basically ask to be sent someplace else (somewhere he'd start, like Tampa Bay or the Mets) because he's no longer with the same club he joined in January.
The Fish should be able to carry both Smith and Raines. The backup infielders should be Pablo Ozuna and Andy Fox, and since Fox can play just about everywhere but catcher, Jeff Torborg should have some flexibility and good sock on the bench, even without having McMillon. Owens is probably the worst hitter that will be riding teal pine, which is all the more interesting since it's likely that Owens will play more than any of the others.
We've been beating the hope-and-faith anvil a bit lately, as we're inclined to do, but is there anything more demoralizing than realizing that a never-was would rather get physically pummeled for a living as a New Brown than being a sad sack fringe-oid for the Brew Crew? And you wonder why Czar Bud would rather risk wrecking the industry than let the smart kids continue to rule the sandbox?
Agreed to terms on a one-year contract with CF-R Torii Hunter, avoiding arbitration. [2/19]
This makes sense. The Twins were offering Hunter around $3 million per in a four-year offer. If he expects a lot more than that, considering his problems reaching base, he's expecting a lot. From the organization's perspective, if he wants more, why pay? He'll be 27 this year. If he doesn't start reaching base, he's part of the problem in a lineup that features players who have interesting and worthwhile portions of the offensive skill sets, but only one player (Corey Koskie) who resembles a complete hitter.
Named Wendell Kim bench coach, Dick Pole pitching coach, Tom McGraw hitting coach, Jerry Morales first-base coach, Manny Acta third-base coach, Bob Natal bullpen coach, and Claude Raymond roving coach. [2/17]
Agreed to terms on a one-year contract with RHP Carl Pavano, avoiding arbitration. [2/20]
Signed Used-to-be-Somebody-B Felix Jose to a minor-league contract. [2/21]
Signed Somebody-Else-Who-Used-to-be-Somebody-L Lance Johnson and RHP Osvaldo Fernandez to minor-league contracts with spring-training NRIs; claimed OF-L Endy Chavez off of waivers from the Mets; named Tony Siegle assistant general manager, Dan Lunetta special assistant to the general manager, Adam Wogan director of player development and Fred Seymour assistant director of player development. [2/22]
Released OF-R Lyle Mouton. [2/25]
Okay, maybe it's because I'm living in D.C. that I'm even hungrier for major league baseball. I admit, I'm already allowing images of Opening Day 2003 for the Washington Nationals to cloud my invariably fuzzy vision. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that there's good news in this mix, even if you do have to turn the proverbial Nelsonian blind eye towards absolutely worthless pickups like Lance Johnson or Felix Jose.
First, I'm happy to see Dick Pole get a chance to work with Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano. Pole has done some outstanding work in the past, and while he's annoyed some people for not being a shrinking violet, it isn't like he's working for a manager who's worried about his future with the organization. In this organization, you could argue that nobody has a future, hopefully not even Omar Minaya if he's half as half-baked as he's trying to sound, so everyone from Frank Robinson on down can concentrate on teaching and/or winning as many games as they can. If F. Robby feels comfortable working with Pole, then there's a decent opportunity for some good things to happen.
Second, bringing in Jose Canseco rocks. Sure, he might only be here in a Steve Braun-style deluxe pinch-hitting role. He might also actually play a lot of left field if Brad Wilkerson has a bad camp. He could also play some first base--Canseco long ago discussed the eventual likelihood that he'd have to play some games there--should Lee Stevens get dealt to some appropriately desperate near-contender at some point during the season. Of course, Canseco is one of my favorite players, so you can pretty much take it for granted that I am completely prejudiced on the subject. What can I say, I'm envious of Donald Sutherland and whoever else decides to man the seats in le Stade Olympique if it entails the chance to not only see Vladimir Guerrero and Javier Vazquez and Jose Vidro, but also some Jose Canseco.
That's not to give Brad Wilkerson short shrift. He needs a good camp to get the starting left-field job that should be his at some point this year, in part to impress his new manager and a new collection of front-office types who don't know who's on this team or in this organization. He's the best hitting prospect in the organization not named Brandon Phillips; if Minaya deals him for Jorge Toca and Timo Perez, that ought to be reason enough to dismiss Minaya on the spot for professional incompetence, and call into question MLB's motives in operating the franchise.
Signed C/1B-R Jim Leyritz to a minor-league contract. [2/19]
Apparently, the Yankees want to make absolutely certain that their extended spring-training squad can take the Devil Rays. Anybody want to bet on Tampa? Isn't The King eligible for Yankee Old-Timer games yet? Will Andy Hawkins ask for Hank Bauer as a defensive substitute, rather than pitch with Jim Leyritz in the outfield?
Traded RHP Corey Brittan to the Rockies for RHP Kane Davis. [2/21]
A nice free-talent snag for the Mets in a trade made because the Rockies needed roster space. Kane Davis isn't a great pitcher, but he was remarkably useful for the Rockies in a long-relief role last season. With the Mets, he's behind people like David Weathers and probably Grant Roberts (out of options) for right-handed middle-innings work, and basically dueling with John Frascatore and Satoru Komiyama for that last slot in the bullpen. Even then, he has to hope that either Jeff D'Amico opens the year on the DL or that Bruce Chen becomes somebody else's problem. The odds of either of those things happening aren't shabby, several orders of magnitude more likely than, say, a presidential pardon for Steve Garvey.
Signed RF-L Bobby Abreu to a five-year contract extension, ending any shot at arbitration for quite some time. [2/20]
Clearly, there are a lot of atmospherics involved in this, but let's set aside the whole Scott Rolen issue, because it's besides the point. The organization has made its choice; it likes Dallas Green's witty repartee more than it likes a particular ballplayer. That's an organizational choice; not a good one, but a choice.
It didn't stop Ed Wade from making another organizational choice, a very good one, in signing up Bobby Abreu for what should be the rest of his peak and a couple of years beyond. Abreu looks like somebody who will age well. He's coming off of three straight 100-walk seasons, he's picking up power as he ages, he can handle right field well, he can run, and he won't have Richie Hebner barking at him from here on out. What's not to like?
The real question is whether the Phillies are in an either-or position, and can't have both Abreu and Rolen. Mike Lieberthal is only signed through 2003, at which point it will probably be a good time to cut bait. Doug Glanville costs too much, but he's guaranteed nothing beyond this year, and Marlon Byrd is on the way. Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins won't cost much for another couple of years. Travis Lee won't have to be inked for forever, especially if he doesn't finally have the kind of happy (and Hebner-less) season that we'd all like to see. So the Phillies should be able to make a multi-year commitment to Rolen if they have the courage to suck up and make him the right kind of offer, even if it involves swallowing some pride and making Dallas Green work (sober) as the Philly Phanatic's new shaggy sidekick in family sections on weekends.
Signed C-B Mandy Romero to a minor-league contract. [2/25]
Agreed to terms on a three-year contract with 3B-R Aramis Ramirez. [2/28]
Kudos to the Pirates and to Dave Littlefield. Pokey Reese might not add a single win to the ledger, but Aramis Ramirez will, and locking him up to a multi-year deal is good news on an even higher order than December's deal with the White Sox.
Announced the retirement of PH-B Bobby Bonilla. [2/25]
Actually, Bobby Bo announced his retirement himself, and the Cardinals didn't really hold the press conference. Of course, neither did the Mets or the Phillies or the Pirates or the Marlins. He outlasted Andy Van Slyke by six years, eight if you count the years Van Slyke belonged in baseball, but maybe five if you figure it in terms of when Van Slyke was done and when Bobby Bo was done, respectively. I'm sure that the Pirates still think they spent the money the right way.
I prefer to think further back, back to the opportunity that the White Sox had in 1986, until, as with so many other things, Hawk Harrelson blew it and traded Bonilla to the Pirates. I really, really liked Jose DeLeon as a pitcher, but Bonilla's future was golden, and Harrelson was goofing around with Timmy Hulett and Wayne Tolleson. Subsequent years gave the Sox Steve Lyons and Donnie Hill and Jerry Royster and Carlos Martinez. How can we forget Pat Keedy or Kelly Paris? Or the horrific Kenny Williams experiment? Those were dark times, years when the South Siders had to envy Cubs fans Keith Moreland, about as ignoble a proposition as you could imagine, worse yet because it was true. When somebody like Eddie Williams did well, he was run off. Three-and-a-half years after Bonilla was traded, Robin Ventura finally arrived to stay (arguably a year early), but the intervening seasons were ugly.
Fortunately for Bobby Bo, he had a career in the meantime. It was to the Marlins' credit that they let him return to third base and focused on scoring runs, accepting Bonilla for what he was. He wasn't a great defensive third baseman, but he was at least adequate (if error-prone) and usually very good at starting the 5-4-3 double play. With the benefit of getting a third corner outfielder's bat into the lineup, it was worth the occasional E-5. Since it got a ring on his (and Wayne Huizenga's) finger, it worked out pretty well.
Named Dave Winfield vice president. [2/19]
Signed OF-R Trent Hubbard to a minor-league contract. [2/23]
Not that this means anything, but I had the good fortune to have Trenidad Hubbard's mom as my nurse when I was in the hospital back in 1991. She saw that I had some baseball books with me, and that I was really bad about following orders about just lying in bed because I preferred to stay up late, reading. So she asked me if I'd heard of her son. This was back when he was playing second base in the Astros' organization, and he was coming off of two years spent mostly at Double-A, and there was somebody named Biggio already in the way. So we gabbed about how good his chances were, especially with expansion coming, and how I absolutely thought her son would make the big leagues at some point. Not that it took that much prescience, because it was by no means a sure thing. As a result of that night, though, I've always had a reason to like Trent Hubbard, and it still follows me around as the reason why, for no particularly good reason, I root for the guy.
As a result, I'm genuinely happy to see him land with Padres. They're one of the smart organizations in the game today, and if anything happens to Ron Gant, or if an irresistible offer for Bubba Trammell rolls around, or if they decided not to keep Damian Jackson and Deivi Cruz around in bench roles, Hubbard is not a lousy choice for the job of last man on the bench. He's 36, and mostly useful as a platoon partner, pinch-runner and spare part, and Bruce Bochy does a pretty good job of using everyone he's got to good advantage.
Oh, and a famous guy got his payoff for wearing a Padres cap to the Hall of Fame. Film at 11.
Announced the retirement of C-R Giuseppe Chiaramonte. [2/22]
Giuseppe Chiaramonte had a good season more recently than two national elections ago, which was obviously far too recently to want to have him around to menace the living undead Benito Santiago. You see, the Giants have an equal-opportunity program for the life-challenged, and Santiago is a role model for the putrefying but rich in spirit.
Chris Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.