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March 5, 2003
February 25-March 3
Agreed to terms with RHP Bobby Brownlie. [3/2]
By signing Brownlie before the draft, the Cubs just make sure they've got another talented arm on board in an organization loaded with talented arms. Bringing him in is just the capper to what was a very intriguing 2002 draft for the Cubs. Jim Hendry and Scouting Director John Stockstill went for arms en masse again, and the initial returns are pretty good. Six of their top seven picks were pitchers, and the three that pitched a bit (1st round pick Luke Hagerty out of Ball State, and high school pitchers Justin Jones and Billy Petrick) all looked exceptional. After starring at Rutgers, Brownlie was the Cubs' top pick and the 21st overall. He might be something, or he might flame out, but the organization's track record with its top young pitchers in recent years has been good. He should get a look-see at full-season A-ball, probably pitching his way into high-A before the season's out.
Placed RHP Luke Prokopec on the 60-day DL (torn labrum--shoulder); claimed 1B/LF-L Dernell Stenson off of waivers from the Red Sox. [2/25]
Moving Prokopec to the 60-day DL was as much a foregone conclusion as Pat Meares' victory lap-less going away tour, but it was interesting that the Reds took the opportunity to take a flyer on Dernell Stenson. It's not a bad choice. After all, Sean Casey's at the tail end of his career peak and coming off of a two-year slide. If he continues to stumble while cashing Lindner checks, the Reds would be wise to find a taker and consider their options.
Stenson's been forced to spend a couple of years tromping around in left while getting stale in Pawtucket. The real question is whether he got stale because he's actually not very good, or if he got stale because he never seemed to have an opportunity to advance, or because he doesn't take his career seriously, or because he's been replaced by an alien from the other planet, not the one that gives us the great single-season abductee replacements that rock briefly and then disappear (like Fernando Tatis), but instead more like the Alex Gonzalezes or Creed, the mostly harmless, generally annoying, overrated aliens that get talked about all the time and then turn out to be as exotic as banana slugs or monitor lizards. Only time, a new organization where he might have a real opportunity, or Leonard Nimoy with a crackerjack film crew and a research exoproctologist, will tell.
Signed UT-B Jose Offerman to a one-year contract. [2/25]
It could be worse, he could be related to Vladimir Guerrero. To be nice about it, Offerman can play a good first base and an adequate second, and if you ask him, he'll almost certainly stand anywhere else you ask him to play. He's still able to take a walk, which makes him a little bit of an odd duck on this team. It's a little amusing to think that he and fellow former shortstop wunderkind Wil Cordero are on the same team, several positions and organizations later. With first base unsettled, third base manned by Fernando Tatis, and the bench generally short of quality reserves, bringing Offerman in wasn't the worst thing that Omar Minaya could have done.
Signed OF-R Reggie Sanders to a one-year contract. [2/25]
We sort of touched on this last week, but Sanders is pretty much a poster child for the free agent who needs the job with the franchise more than the franchise needs to have him fill the job. But compared to Derek Bell, he's an asset, signed for the right kind of money in the sort of way that should reassure Pirates fans, not make them think Sanders is some sort of Dawsonesque victim of collusion grudgingly signed by a franchise uninterested in the on-field product.
What this really does is produce an unfortunate situation of sorts. Sanders is going to play, and he can't really play center. Randall Simon is going to play as well, getting the lion's share of the time at first. So that leaves Craig Wilson hard-pressed to get 400 plate appearances, and he's even less of a center fielder. It likely puts Matt Stairs on the bench, which is not a bad thing, but hosing Wilson is a mistake. The Pirates could respond by playing Brian Giles in center pretty frequently, going with the gorilla outfield of Giles flanked by Wilson and Sanders, but that's probably not going to win friends and influence people on the mound. But as long as the Bucs have their superior double-play combo to anchor the defense, why not cram bats in the lineup in the outfield? They can't count on Jason Kendall getting back to being a star, and Simon isn't going to get any better. A mongo outfield plus a strong bounceback by Aramis Ramirez would at least give Pirates fans something to buzz about.
Signed RHP Jose Paniagua to a minor league contract. [2/27]
Signed RHP Lee Gardner to a minor league contract. [2/28]
Mt. Piniella always likes to have a few surrounding familiar blocks of granite, that way he can channel his belched fury at the usual suspects, the young, the inexperienced, the lily-livered, all the usual conspirators for whatever failings his team produces and he can barely let himself watch. But armed with the tried, the true, and those semi-familiar with the highs and the lows of living in the shadow of the Mountain, perhaps he can snuff out these insidious losers, do things his way, and win 63 games. After which he can celebrate by dragging that Mike Veeck promotional catapult out of mothballs and sending Greg Vaughn hurtling into the bay, or something similarly likely to get the fans of Tampa to forget the Buccaneers and acknowledge his achievement.
More simply, Jose Paniagua rejoins his old manager with a shot at saves, the same as everyone else in camp not being looked at as a starting pitcher. They've got Mel Rojas here, for gods' sakes. And Wayne Gomes. And John Frascatore. They may not all make the club, but some of them will, sustaining a bold tradition of recycling only a generation raised on Alcoa commercials can really appreciate.