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December 2, 1998

Transaction Analysis

November 11-December 12

by Dave Pease

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released pitchers Jeff Juden and Rich Robertson. [11/16]

Re-signed catcher Matt Walbeck to a two-year contract. [11/17]

Signed first baseman Mo Vaughn to a six-year contract with club option for 2005. [11/25]

The Angels were the team to make Mo Vaughn the most well-paid player in the majors, signing him for $80 million. It's interesting that they'll pick up a guy who was almost certainly driving drunk, but they'll try to cut Tony Phillips for being caught with some coke.

Anyway, soapbox aside, the Angels will boast a lineup that includes Vaughn, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon (if his arches hold up), and Troy Glaus. Erstad will be moving back to the outfield, and the Angels are reportedly shopping Jim Edmonds around; it would be smarter of them to get rid of the overrated Garret Anderson, but there's not much talk of that. What this means for Todd Greene is unclear; if he can catch, he'll split time with Walbeck, but he reportedly won't be able to do that again, so there may be no room at the inn for him. Another team which needs a power hitting corner OF/1B/DH type would be wise to make a play for him.

I wouldn't want to be counting on Mo Vaughn for six years, but at least in the short term, the Angels have netted one of the best.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed pitcher Greg Swindell to a three-year contract. Signed first baseman Greg Colbrunn to a two-year contract. [11/11]

Traded pitcher Bob Wolcott to the Boston Red Sox for a PTBNL. [11/11]

Signed pitcher Todd Stottlemyre to a four-year contract. [11/19]

Signed pitcher Armando Reynoso to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [11/24]

Signed pitcher Randy Johnson to a four-year contract. [11/30]

All these pitcher signings must be sending visions of contention dancing like sugarplums through Jerry Colangelo's dreams, but the money he's blowing on a state-of-the-art staff could really be better spent elsewhere. Consider the context: the D-Backs are only a second-year team. There's no better time to lay a foundation for an Atlanta Braves type of run than the present, when expectations are low and the fan base is more accepting of a losing record. Why not get acquainted with youngsters like Travis Lee, Karim Garcia, Brian Anderson, and 1998 staff hero Omar Daal (162.2 IP, 2.88 ERA)?

Instead, the top four pitchers on Arizona's staff are all over 30 and making a ton of money. This is a move that wouldn't be bad to make if you're a team with an offense, like the Mariners, but the D-Backs are saddled with decaying players like Jay Bell and Matt Williams and a scar of an outfield. Their offense was terrible in 1998, scoring only 665 runs despite playing half their games in Bank One Ballpark, a very good hitter's park, and it doesn't figure to get much better in 1999--especially if they sign Steve Finley, as is rumored, to play CF.

The real irony in all of this is that Daal, who outperformed every offseason signee last year, may be drummed out of the rotation. He's only 26, and an expansion team should reasonably value him far above the Armando Reynosos of the world, but he'll probably be shipped off for Randy Myers or something, to provide the tough lefty the pen needs. Ye cats, this is going to be a disappointing season in the Valley of the Sun in 1999.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed outfielder Brian Jordan to a five-year contract. [11/23]

Re-signed catcher Eddie Perez to a two-year contract. [11/25]

Re-signed shortstop Ozzie Guillen to a two-year contract. Signed outfielder Otis Nixon to a one-year contract. [12/1]

The signings of Nixon and Jordan indicate Ryan Klesko isn't long for Atlanta, which will leave the Braves with Andruw Jones, Jordan, Nixon, and Williams in the outfield mix for 1999. This could well be the best defensive set of flycatchers in the league. Nixon and Williams figure to make a dynamite top-of-the-order platoon in left field, and keep the position warm for George Lombard in 2000. The Braves can use a leadoff hitter, and Nixon and Williams should deliver.

Perez had a career season in 1998, backing up Javy Lopez and catching Greg Maddux. Hopefully the Braves didn't pay him to do it again, but he's a reliable backup. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen still blows, but at this point he's almost certainly better than Rafael Belliard, so what the heck?

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed pitcher Mike Timlin to a four-year contract. [11/12]

Signed outfielder Albert Belle to a five-year contract. [12/1]

Traded pitcher Armando Benitez to the New York Mets for catcher Charles Johnson. [12/1]

Belle's first press conference as an Oriole was all sweetness and light; anyone remember how the exact same thing happened when he signed with the White Sox two years ago? He's still an awesome offensive force, and should replace the mediocre B.J. Surhoff's contributions with no problem whatsoever. He's going to have to, since the O's lost Rafael Palmeiro to Texas, are carrying two shortstops in the starting lineup with Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Bordick, and who knows who is going to replace Robbie Alomar at second?

Baltimore jumped into the Mets' offseason tradefest by picking up Charles Johnson to catch for them. Johnson is a great defender, but he's never been a great hitter and is running out of time to have the productive peak it looked like he'd have out of college. The team got rid of Public Enemy #1 in trading Armando Benitez, which opens up the closer spot for the newly wealthy Mike Timlin. This isn't a great idea from a talent standpoint, but Timlin isn't Jose Mesa or anything either. Chris Hoiles appears to be left out in the cold, since the O's obviously didn't acquire Johnson to share the catching duties; as Rob Neyer pointed out, Hoiles could easily have a Mike Stanley-esque second career as a designated hitter. Hoiles can still hit; the main difference between the two seems to be that Hoiles has never been held in particularly high regard with O's management. If the O's use a platoon of Hoiles and Pickering at first base this year, they should be pleased with the results.

BOSTON RED SOX

Traded a PTBNL to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Bob Wolcott. [11/11]

Signed second baseman Jose Offerman to a four-year contract with club option for 2003. [11/13]

Designated outfielders Billy Ashley and Jimmy Hurst, pitchers Rich Garces and Carlos Valdez and catcher Mandy Romero for assignment. [11/19]

Named Jim Robinson scout and Ray Crone Jr. national cross checker. [11/24]

Letting Mo Vaughn, Joey Belle, and Bernie Williams escape their grasp for Jose Offerman probably isn't what the Red Sox faithful were hoping for this offseason. Offerman got a ton of money ($7.5M per) from Red Sox management, but he's an excellent offensive infielder who can handle second. He should be kept there; it'd be a mistake to use him at first, as the Royals had a habit of doing before they went out and locked up Jeff King for the job. With Garciaparra and Valentin, plus a generic first baseman (Will Clark?), the Sox will have a very good offensive infield. They'll need it, because their outfielders remain underwhelming.

The Billy Ashley days are over in Boston. He should have no problem finding a job somewhere--he's still a reasonable choice as a cheap pinch hitter/DH. Rich Garces pitched very well most of the season for the Sox, and he's only 27, so he could have a nice season with someone next year if he's healthy.

It's nice to see Crone Jr. mentioned. The job of national cross checker is a chronically underappreciated one, and Crone should do a heck of a job for the Sox.

CHICAGO CUBS

Signed first baseman Scott Stahoviak, pitchers Steve Gajkowski, Andrew Lorraine and Scott Watkins, outfielder Allen Battle and catcher Alan Zinter to minor-league contracts. [11/13]

Claimed pitcher Elvin Hernandez off waivers from the Minnesota Twins. Purchased the contracts of pitchers Kyle Farnsworth, Phillip Norton, Richard Barker, Ray King, and Brian McNichol, outfielder Roosevelt Brown and infielder Chad Meyers from Triple-A Iowa. Outrighted pitchers Steve Rain and Don Wengert to Triple-A Iowa. [11/19]

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Traded outfielder Mike Cameron to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Paul Konerko. [11/11]

A very nice pickup for the Pale Hose, who have a lot of offensive ground to make up after losing Albert Belle to free agency. Cameron was very disappointing in his second season in Chicago, and Cincinnati's surplus of young 1B/DH types who can hit allowed them to trade him for Konerko, who is three years younger and is still on track for a great career. He figures to start the season with the Sox, and hopefully he won't spend another day in the minors.

CINCINNATI REDS

Traded first baseman Paul Konerko to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Mike Cameron. [11/11]

Signed outfielders Wonderful Monds and Decomba Conner, pitcher Brandon Puffer, catchers Raymond Brooks and Ryan Luzinski, first baseman Juan Thomas and third baseman Joseph Salzano to minor-league contracts. [11/19]

Cameron will probably be the Reds' starting center fielder. He's a good prospect who is awesome defensively, which any team can use in CF. The Reds probably didn't get equal value for Konerko, but they didn't exactly need him with Casey slated to play first for them. Cameron will likely be flanked by Dmitri Young and Michael Tucker, with Jeffrey Hammonds in the mix somewhere and Reggie Sanders still a good pick to be somewhere else come 1999.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Outrighted pitcher John Smiley to Triple-A Buffalo. [11/11]

Traded outfielder Brian Giles to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Ricardo Rincon. [11/18]

Signed second baseman Roberto Alomar to a four-year contract with club option for 2003. [11/24]

Giles will finally get a chance to start in his first season away from Cleveland; he is a good hitter in the prime of his career, but the Indians aren't exactly hurting for bats. Meanwhile, Rincon likely becomes the top left-hander in the Indians bullpen, where he'll be backed up by Paul Assenmacher, because you can never have too many lefties. It'll be pretty surprising to see Ron Villone in Cleveland at all next year.

Alomar went where everybody thought he'd go, and gives the Indians a vaunted all-All-Star starting eight. Unfortunately, not all of these guys are still All-Star caliber players. After years as one of the top second basemen in the league, Alomar had his problems with injuries and ineffectiveness in 1998. He's still young enough to make this contract worth the Indians' while.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Outrighted infielder Jason Bates to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [11/19]

Bates couldn't hit in Colorado, so the conclusion that he won't hit anywhere is probably a reasonable one to draw.

DETROIT TIGERS

Signed pitcher Masao Kida. Designated pitcher Greg Keagle for assignment. [11/23]

Signed pitchers Felipe Lira and Brian Looney, catcher Joe Siddall and outfielders Rickey Cradle and Ben Candelaria to minor-league contracts. [11/24]

Masao Kida is the newest import from the Japanese League. He's rumored to have some good stuff, but hasn't consistently translated that into good performance in his career so far. However, it's tough to imagine that he'll be worse than Greg Keagle, so score one for Randy Smith.

Felipe Lira returns to the only team he ever had any success with. If he recaptures the form that he had in 1995, when he pitched 146.1 innings of 4.31 ERA ball for the Tigers, he'll be a useful member of the staff. At 26 years of age, he's still young enough to do it.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Traded pitcher Oscar Henriquez to the New York Mets for catcher Jorge Fabregas and cash. [11/20]

Traded catcher Gregg Zaun to the Texas Rangers for a PTBNL or cash. [11/23]

Outrighted infielder Josh Booty, catcher John Roskos, outfielder Bruce Aven and pitcher Rob Stanifer to Triple-A Charlotte. Released infielder Brian Daubach. [11/25]

The Marlins approach the Rule V draft with a bounty of draftables, which explains their shuffling some of them around. In the process, they become the fourth team since the end of the 1997 season to employ Jorge Fabregas as their starting catcher. Fabregas isn't really any better than the departed Gregg Zaun, and I'm surprised Dombrowski would bother with him.

I guess this means Josh Booty is free to go back to school and play football. That ought to make him pretty happy...

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed third baseman Ken Caminiti to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [11/15]

San Diego wasn't all that interested in resigning Caminiti, so he took less money to move back to Houston, reuniting him with his good buddies Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. He's still a premier player when he's healthy; unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy very often lately, and his defense took a huge hit last year with his reduced mobility. The Astros aren't paying him all that much ($9.5M), so it wasn't neccessarily a bad deal for the Astros, but he's pretty clearly not the player he was in 1996.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Traded third baseman Bobby Bonilla to the New York Mets for pitcher Mel Rojas. [11/11]

Signed infielder Juan Castro to a two-year contract. [11/12]

Signed pitcher Alan Mills to a three-year contract. [11/13]

Traded catcher Charles Johnson and outfielder Roger Cedeno to the New York Mets for catcher Todd Hundley and pitcher Arnold Gooch. [12/1]

The Dodgers picked up the suddenly ineffective Mel Rojas, as rumored, from the Mets for Bobby Bonilla. This was a trade of two old players who are expensive and relatively ineffective--Bonilla's got more left than Rojas at this point, but superprospect Adrian Beltre is ready to go at third base. Alan Mills will help out at swingman in 1999. He's a competent, if unspectacular, reliever.

The big news, of course, is Charles Johnson's departure from Los Angeles and Todd Hundley's arrival. Johnson was a big disappointment with Los Angeles after coming over from Florida in the Mike Piazza trade, and he probably won't be missed too much, especially if Hundley can regain his former status as one of the top hitting catchers in baseball. Hundley says his elbow is 100%; if he performs like he did last year, the Dodgers are going to be sorely disappointed, but this was a worthwhile gamble for them to take. Cedeno was royally screwed with the big contract White got; given White's presence, he was a reasonable guy to trade, though the Dodgers would have eschewed White entirely and started with Cedeno if they were smart.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded pitcher Dan Naulty to the New York Yankees for third baseman Allen Butler. [11/16]

The Twins avoid arbitration with Naulty by moving him to the Yanks. They weren't able to get Mike Powell in return, which would have been slightly absurd.

NEW YORK METS

Traded pitcher Mel Rojas to the Los Angeles Dodgers for third baseman Bobby Bonilla. [11/11]

Re-signed pitcher Masato Yoshii to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [11/12]

Reinstated general manager Steve Phillips. [11/16]

Re-signed pitcher Dennis Cook to a three-year contract. [11/18]

Traded catcher Jorge Fabregas and cash to the Florida Marlins for pitcher Oscar Henriquez. [11/20]

Traded catcher Todd Hundley and pitcher Arnold Gooch to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Charles Johnson and outfielder Roger Cedeno. [12/1]

Traded catcher Charles Johnson to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Armando Benitez. [12/1]

Signed third baseman Robin Ventura to a four-year contract. [12/1]

Good heavens, that's a lot of activity. The Mets are the big winners in the offseason so far. The Ventura signing lets Bonilla take a corner outfield spot, which he can handle defensively, and allows the excellent Edgardo Alfonzo to move to second, which in turn moves Carlos Baerga on to another team. Meanwhile, the team turns Todd Hundley into Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno, who could lock up centerfield for years if he's given the job. Benitez should provide what Rojas couldn't in the bullpen.

The Mets were borderline playoff material last season, and they've now netted themselves solid upgrades at third base, second base, left field, center field, and in the bullpen in the offseason. They probably paid too much for Cook and Ventura, but they'll be the serious playoff contenders next year that they weren't this year.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Re-signed pitcher David Cone to a one-year contract. [11/11]

Traded third baseman Allen Butler to the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Dan Naulty. [11/16]

Extended the deadline to exercise their option on outfielder Darryl Strawberry for the fourty third time. [11/25]

Re-signed outfielder Bernie Williams to a seven-year contract. [11/25]

At the last minute, Bernie Williams spurns the Red Sox to return to the Yanks. I thought he'd get more money than he ended up getting (though he didn't do too badly), but seven years is an awfully long time to have Williams (or anyone) under contract. He's the complete package in center field, though, and retaining him leaves the Yanks with basically the same team that swept through the rest of the league in 1998.

Cone re-signed for a very odd one-year deal. He's certainly looking for a repeat of last year. The Yanks also put off making a decision on Strawberry yet again; this supposedly helps him work out his financial difficulties, though I'm not sure how this would work (unless they've agreed to pay him whatever he turns out to be in debt for or something).

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed third baseman Olmedo Saenz to a minor league contract. [11/19]

Re-signed pitcher Tim Worrell to a one-year contract. [11/20]

Saenz was signed out of the White Sox system, and represents Eric Chavez' only threat to a starting job next year. He'll likely end up backing Chavez at third and playing some DH.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Released pitcher Calvin Maduro. [11/19]

Traded pitchers Ricky Bottalico and Garrett Stephenson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Ron Gant, pitchers Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte and cash. [11/19]

What the heck does a team like Philadelphia need Ron Gant for?

Then again, what do they need Ricky Bottalico for?

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed second baseman Mike Benjamin to a two-year contract. [11/17]

Traded pitcher Ricardo Rincon to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Brian Giles. [11/18]

Giles is just what this offense needed. A power-hitting left fielder who will run Al Martin out of town, Giles isn't too expensive and is good for a few more years. The same can't be said of Benjamin. It's laudable that the Pirates realize that Tony Womack isn't the answer at second, despite all the stolen bases, but Benjamin is a useless player as anything but an end-of-the-bench guy--and those guys shouldn't get two-year contracts.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Traded outfielder Ron Gant, pitchers Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Ricky Bottalico and Garrett Stephenson. [11/19]

Signed outfielder Eric Davis to a two-year contract. Signed pitcher Scott Radinsky to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [11/19]

The Cards make a nice move in ditching Ron Gant's decaying corpse and plugging in Eric Davis. Davis was awesome last year, and he'll contribute to a fine Cards outfield with J.D. Drew and Ray Lankford this year. Meanwhile, Bottalico hasn't been effective lately, but he's young and still throws heat--and Gant and Brantley are making lots of money. The Cards made a nice salary dodge here.

Radinsky's comeback from cancer has been quiet but impressive with the Dodgers, and he's an underrated lefty that will throw 80 good innings for the Cards this season.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Re-signed outfielder Ellis Burks to a two-year contract. [11/12]

Re-signed outfielder Marvin Benard to a two-year contract. [11/24]

The Giants plan to shift Burks to right field, where he has less of a chance of hurting himself. Meanwhile, the team is planning on using Benard in center (along with incumbent Stan Javier and minor league vet Armando Rios), but he had the season of his life last year (.322/.396/.434) and shouldn't be expected to repeat it. He's a marginal major-league player at best, but then again the Giants always seem to have a guy who fits that label in their outfield somewhere.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed pitcher Jose Mesa to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [11/12]

Wait, what? Jose Mesa? For God's sake, what use is this move? The Mariners seem determined to wash the best years of Griffey and Rodriguez (and their supporting cast) down the drain. If there's a guy who pitched like he was in the Mariner pen without actually being there last year, it was Jose Mesa most of the season. To sign him knowing the proclivities of Lou Piniella, and to expect him to do good for your team, is either fiendish or idiotic, depending on who (if anyone) is paying off Woody Woodward.

TEXAS RANGERS

Re-signed shortstop Royce Clayton to a four-year contract. [11/30]

Signed first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to a five-year contract. [12/1]

Palmeiro proves that you can go home again, spurning the O's after five good years there to re-sign with Texas. The Rangers made a dumb move ditching Palmeiro for Will Clark in 1993, and they'll benefit by replacing the injury-prone Clark with Palmeiro. After a weak 1997, he rebounded nicely last year; whether he's worth nine million per is a reasonable question, but he'll team with Gonzalez and Greer to give the Rangers a tough middle of the order, and can be counted on for 150 games a season, which isn't something that could be said for Clark.

Royce Clayton decided to stick around after coming over from the Cardinals during the playoff drive. He can't hit, but neither could anyone the Rangers were playing at short before they picked him up. At least he's steady defensively.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Agreed in principle to a 10-year lease with the Toronto SkyDome. [11/26]

Hmmm. This deal appears to give the Jays "small market status" until the year 2008. Good for them.

Dave Pease is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Dave's other articles. You can contact Dave by clicking here

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