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January 7, 1999

Transaction Analysis

December 2-28

by Dave Pease and Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Re-signed pitcher Jack McDowell and infielder Randy Velarde to one-year contracts. Signed infielder Craig Shipley to a minor-league contract. [12/7]

Designated pitcher Allen Watson for assignment. [12/12]

Acquired pitcher Mark Petkovsek from the St. Louis Cardinals for a PTBNL (who turned out to be catcher Matt Garrick). Designated catcher Ben Molina for assignment. [12/14]

Signed pitcher Tim Belcher to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [12/18]

Re-signing McDowell and picking up Belcher gives the new-look Angels an old, mediocre rotation of Chuck Finley, Ken Hill, Belcher, and two from a pile of bodies including Omar Olivares, Steve Sparks, McDowell (if he can pitch), Jason Dickson (if he ever makes it back), and Jarrod Washburn (if they decide to wise up). That's a slight improvement over anything involving Allen Watson, though Finley can be expected to backslide a bit; then again, some of us have been expecting Finley to bomb for years, and he hasn't done it yet. The Mouse's revamped staff isn't great, but depending on how the outfield situation shakes out (and how effectively the Mariners remove themselves from contention), it should still be good enough to make a serious run at the division title next year. Why would anyone trade for Mark Petkovsek? Well, Pep Harris is out for the year, and Mike James is damaged goods, and it isn't like Garrick is a good prospect.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed outfielder Steve Finley to a four-year contract. [12/7]

Traded pitcher Felix Rodriguez to the San Francisco Giants for future considerations. [12/8]

Acquired pitcher Bart Miadich from the Boston Red Sox to complete the Bob Wolcott trade. [12/14]

Signed outfielders Pete Incaviglia and Ernie Young, infielder Scott Coolbaugh, pitchers Dan Carlson, George Glinatsis, Al Kermode and Matt Ruebel, catchers Marcus Hanel and Izzy Molina and first baseman Desi Wilson to minor-league contracts. [12/15]

For the second season, general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. sets the D-Backs up with an old, questionable-offense glove merchant in center field. There are differences, of course. Devon White was only under contract for a year, and ended up having a good season, whereas Steve Finley is signed or four years and $20 million, and is coming off a very weak offensive campaign in San Diego. Finley is still a good defensive player, but whether he's a better option in center than David Dellucci (plus twenty million bucks in the bank) is a very open question.

The D-Backs will be flanking Finley with Bernard Gilkey and Luis Gonzalez, after dealing problem child Karim Garcia to the Tigers for Gonzalez. Garcia was a disappointment with the Diamondbacks last year, but he's still only 23 by MLB's records, and will be better than Gonzalez as early as this year. A good move for the Tigers, while the Diamondbacks ink another essentially average offensive player for their 1999 team.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Re-signed pitcher Rudy Seanez to a one-year contract. [12/3]

Signed pitcher Mike Remlinger to a one-year contract. [12/4]

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Re-signed outfielder B.J. Surhoff to a three-year contract with club option for 2002. [12/4]

Signed second baseman Delino DeShields to a three-year contract. [12/4]

Signed first baseman Will Clark to a two-year contract. [12/5]

Signed pitcher Xavier Hernandez to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. Signed pitcher Doug Linton to a minor-league contract. Released outfielder Willie Greene. [12/17]

Signed outfielder Rich Amaral to a two-year contract. Signed pitcher Ricky Bones to a one-year contract. [12/21]

It's an odd move to re-sign Surhoff right after signing his ostensible replacement in Albert Belle. Surhoff will likely be moving to right field to make room for Belle; the best idea, of course, would be to move him back to third, Ripken to short, and Mike Bordick to the waiver wire or playing for Herk Robinson, but that's not going to happen.

Delino DeShields should fill in admirably for Roberto Alomar, and for a reasonable price. He's recovered from his Los Angeles slump and played well in St. Louis over the last two years, and should be fine at the top of the order for the Orioles. Will Clark's signing with Baltimore gives them a semi-useful hitter at first base, but the rationale for signing was flawed on two counts. First, as is always the question with Clark, how much time he won't be on the DL is uncertain. Second, he's blocking Cal Pickering, who is potentially one of the great power hitters of his generation, and who's nearly ready. All in all, the Orioles are doing everything in their power to turn into Gene Autry's Angels, signing the aged and infirm to compete with more sensibly-run organizations.

Xavier Hernandez' signing left Willie Greene out in the cold, which seems to underscore how little the Orioles understand what talent has value. Xavier Hernandez and people like him or as good as he is are available for non-roster invitations year-in and year-out, while people like Willie Greene have talent. How far has Greene's star fallen? From hitting 26 home runs and walking 78 times with the Reds in 1997 to this? Besides the fact that he gives the O's yet another superior option to playing Bordick at short and Cal Ripken at third, the guy's still only 27. That he's left without a job while guys like Tim Bogar (or Rich Amaral) get two-year deals is lunacy.

BOSTON RED SOX

Signed pitcher Mark Portugal to a one-year contract with club option for 2001. [12/9]

Released pitcher Carlos Reyes. Signed pitchers Brad Clontz, Tim Harikkala, Kirk Bullinger, Ryan Karp, and Greg Mix, catcher Creighton Gubanich, outfielders Garey Ingram and Victor Gonzalez and infielder Israel Alcantara to minor-league contracts. [12/14]

Claimed pitcher Steve Connelly off waivers from the Oakland Athletics. [12/16]

Signed pitcher Mark Guthrie to a two-year contract. [12/19]

Acquired pitcher Tomokazu Oka from the Yokohama Baystars of the Japanese Central League. [12/22]

What is it about Dan Duquette, anyways? Movement for movement's sake has consistently been one of his operating philosophies, but there's an essentially pathetic quality when he starts signing second-rate knockoffs on his more successful signings. Adding an injury-prone old right-handed starter with great control is nice when it's Bret Saberhagen and you have a reasonable hope for a worthwhile balance of the cost and benefits, but Mark Portugal isn't as good as Saberhagen, and isn't going to be. Guthrie is a nice veteran lefty in the pen, but like Portugal, signing him isn't exactly the smartest way to use the money that didn't get spent on Mo Vaughn, especially when there's very little reason to expect that Ron Mahay can't be every bit as effective as Guthrie for a tenth of the expense. Remember each and every one of the minor league free agents signed here; the chance that each and every one of them will be a Red Sock during the regular season for at least 36 hours is extremely good.

CHICAGO CUBS

Re-signed outfielder Henry Rodriguez to a two-year contract. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Scott Sanders to a one-year contract. [12/2]

Re-signed infielder Gary Gaetti and outfielder Glenallen Hill to one-year contracts. [12/7]

Signed catcher Benito Santiago to a one-year contract. [12/9]

Re-signed pitcher Steve Trachsel to a one-year contract. Traded outfielder Brant Brown to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Jon Lieber. [12/15]

The moves do almost nothing, in themselves, to improve a team that needs major improvements, so let's focus instead on what we can draw from them. Rather than accept responsibility for putting Brown on the field to do something he couldn't do well (or better than alternatives on the bench), Riggleman and Lynch scapegoated him and ran him off. They got excellent value for him in Lieber to round out what is, on paper, an adequate rotation: Kerry Wood, Trachsel, Kevin Tapani, Lieber, and Terry Mulholland. When Jeremi Gonzalez heals up (by sometime in July), in theory they'll have a nice set of choices. I say "in theory" because I won't be surprised if Tapani burns out this year, and if Riggleman really puts his "rubber arm" rhetoric about Mulholland to work, he'll be burned out as well. Lieber has also been tender-armed in the past, which makes me pessimistic about the Cubs' one strength, reliable starting pitching. As for the offense, re-upping with Gaetti and Rodriguez, and dragging in Santiago's carcass, only makes for improvement because it means Scott Servais is gone, and Tyler Houston will hopefully play less. That isn't really significant improvement, especially compared to the gains made by the Astros or Cardinals or even the Reds. What's basically pathetic about the Cubs' decisions to reinforce their pitching staff at the expense of their offense is that their one organizational strength is minor league pitching, with several solid-looking starters already at Double-A or higher, and there isn't a good major league position player above A-ball. When Sosa or Morandini aren't having their best seasons, you can imagine how things should turn out.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Extended the contract of manager Jerry Manuel through 2001 with club option for 2002. [12/10]

Manuel had lots of things to say about almost any subject under the sun except his organization and its management, so the Sox were more than happy to reward him for it. Jerry Manuel's relentless good-natured optimism is of the stripe that would have made him a great spin doctor for the Hindenburg ("It was important to learn that safety was an issue").

CINCINNATI REDS

Sold first baseman Roberto Petagine to the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League. [12/2]

Traded catcher Guillermo Garcia to the Florida Marlins for pitcher Manuel Barrios. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Steve Avery to a one-year contract with club option for 2000. [12/11]

Signed second baseman Mark Lewis to a one-year contract. Released first baseman Eduardo Perez. [12/12]

And so goes an golden opportunity for the Reds to shoot for scoring oodles of runs while spending very little money doing it; "small market" teams are exactly the ones that should be signing and taking advantage of underappreciated offensive stars like Petagine, and instead they're goofing off with Jeffrey Hammonds. The hope is that Avery can be another great ex-Braves rehab project, like Kent Mercker before him, but the signing of Mark Lewis is a miserable decision. Is he better than Pokey Reese? Sure, but so is Brian Raabe or David Doster or a dozen other Triple-A veterans who also happen to be better than Lewis. Like the Phillies before them, the Reds will come to the unfortunate realization that Lewis is an expensive waste as far as temps go.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed pitcher John Burke to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Re-signed outfielder Mark Whiten to a one-year contract. [12/8]

Re-signed pitcher Jerry Spradlin to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [12/16]

Re-signed pitcher Steve Karsay to a one-year contract. [12/28]

COLORADO ROCKIES

Re-signed catcher Kirt Manwaring to a one-year contract with club option for 2000. [12/16]

I thought the Rox had the right idea when they let Manwaring test the waters this offseason; this indicates I was mistaken. I exaggerate only slightly when I say that any price is too much to pay for Kurt Manwaring.

DETROIT TIGERS

Signed catcher Bill Haselman to a two-year contract. Waived outfielder Trey Beamon. [12/14]

Signed pitcher Brian Moehler to a three-year contract. [12/17]

Signed outfielder Gregg Jefferies to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. Traded outfielder Luis Gonzalez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Karim Garcia. [12/28]

Jefferies is just what the Tigers don't need; he's expensive, he can't play a position, and the Tigers already have Gabe Kapler and Juan Encarnacion to look at in the outfield (not to incumbent right fielder Bobby Higginson). And what is the market for injury-prone 32 year old outfielders with no pop anyway? I can't imagine it's close to 2.5 million per year. Keep in mind we're talking about a team that valued Bip Roberts, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised. With the Luis Gonzalez deal, the Tigers looked like they had the right idea--clear out your vets, because you aren't going to be contenders--which makes the Jeffries signing all the more frustrating (especially in light of their netting another player that Jefferies shouldn't be playing in front of, Karim Garcia).

The Brian Moehler deal was a nice one, and the Tigers should prosper for it. I don't think there's much question that a guy with the history Moehler has will be interested in some job security, and that makes signings like this one very sensible from the organization's point of view. Hopefully, Moehler will build on his very solid season and repay the Tigers' faith in him.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Announced the resignation of president Don Smiley, effective December 31st. [12/16]

Submitting bids for team ownership and failing to back them up with the requisite cash is no way to run a baseball team, and in light of John Henry's pronouncements and Dave Dombrowski's smarts, it looks like the Marlins are better off with Smiley in the rear-view mirror.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Re-signed infielder Tim Bogar to a two-year contract. [12/4]

Signed pitcher Shane Reynolds to a three-year contract extension through 2002. [12/10]

The Astros are wallowing in the success of their rousing 1998 like pigs in slop, and there's no uglier example of pork barrel players on a roster than Tim Bogar and his shiny new contract. This is a guy who hit .154/.208/.212 last season, and the worst part of it was that it wasn't exactly a surprise. Sure, he's got an adequate glove, but is that worth any more than the major league minimum? Apparently the Astros think so; Bogar's making $1.1 million over the next few years to weakly ground out and glove some balls. That's about $750,000 too much, and that's money they could have thrown at a player with some actual leverage (Randy Johnson, anyone?)

I've got a similar, but less caustic, beef with Shane Reynolds; he's a nice pitcher, but I'm not sure he's worth the considerable dough the Astros are giving him. Is a 3.51 ERA in the Astrodome really worth $21.5 million--especially since the guy wouldn't have been a free agent for two years anyway? Reynolds is now 30, and has had serious arm problems. Were I the 'stros, I would have left his previous contract in place and gone for a guy who would give more immediate help in the quest to get Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell a title while they are still productive (say Randy Johnson, perhaps. Or did I already?).

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Re-signed pitcher Jeff Montgomery to a one-year contract. [12/7]

Claimed pitcher Dario Veras off waivers from Boston. [12/7]

Signed shortstop Rey Sanchez to a one-year contract. [12/10]

Signed catcher Chad Kreuter to a one-year contract. [12/14]

Signed pitchers John Cummings, Chris George, Erik Hanson, Rick Krivda, Ricky Pickett, Joe Roa, Kennie Steenstra, and David Swartsbaugh, catchers Henry Mercedes and Tim Spehr, infielders Ray Holbert, Scott Leius, and Rico Rossy, and outfielders Steve Gibralter, Les Norman, Scott Pose, and Joe Vitiello to minor-league contracts. [12/17]

Signed pitcher Alvin Morman to a one-year contract. Signed pitchers Don Wengert, Jaime Bluma, Brian Bevil and Jamie Walker to minor-league contracts. [12/21]

Herk's racing against the clock in his quest to keep the Royals in their less-than-mediocre straits. At least you have to hope so before he brings in any more inadequate or inappropriate veteran additions. What's the point of bringing in Rey Sanchez for more than play money, or bringing in Chad Kreuter when you already has Mike Sweeney, and that already goofs off with Sal Fasano? Omaha's GM must have left Herk off of his Christmas card list. How else do you explain signing Henry Mercedes or Don Wengert? On the other hand, the Royals signed enough junk (pitchers) that some of it might stick: Krivda has had his moments, as have Roa or Steenstra. Anything's a step up from Ricky Bones.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed pitcher Kevin Brown to a seven-year contract. [12/12]

The most amazing thing about this deal wasn't the money; it was the incredible number of lunkheads in the San Diego area who immediately attacked Brown's character, upbringing, and lineage for "lying" to them about wanting to be closer to home and spurning the Padres for the hated Los Angeles Dodgers. The breakroom wit could be heard all over the county: "where does he think Los Angeles is? He signed with one of the few teams further from his home than San Diego!"

Never mind the fact that some of the neat perks of the deal are that Brown gets his own Learjet a dozen times a year and that he gets non-pitching days off to go home while school is in session. What do these people think--that he meant closer to home as the crow flies? What'd people think Brown was planning on doing? Walking to Macon? Cripes, it's tough to get closer to home than free plane rides and attending two games (or so) out of five. It will certainly be interesting to see if the time off during the season is something that becomes more common with big-ticket pitchers in the future.

As for the rest of the deal, there's no chance it'll break baseball in any appreciable way, though it is odd that the Dodgers offered $105 million when no other teams were reportedly near that much. You can't blame Brown for taking that kind of money over the $60 million the Padres offered--at least, not if you are being honest with yourself. Kevin Brown will probably be productive for about two-thirds of the length of that deal, and the Dodgers probably won't win anything in the interim, but when you're bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch, who really cares?

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Claimed pitcher Joe Borowski off waibers from the New York Yankees. Claimed catcher Charlie Greene off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles. [12/4]

Signed infielder Sean Berry to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [12/8]

Claimed infielder Lou Collier off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Released outfielder Marc Newfield. [12/18]

The Brewers already have the very capable Jeff Cirillo to play third base for them, so it's most likely that they'll want Berry's services at first base to platoon with Dave Nilsson, pending the arrival of Kevin Barker. That isn't a bad situation at all. Berry also helps strengthen a perpetually weak bench, now that the Brewers won't have Darrin Jackson or Marc Newfield to kick around any longer (although they now have the always-disappointing tools goof, Alex Ochoa). Newfield is the last link to Greg Vaughn, and what once looked like a promising a deal from the Brewers' standpoint has evaporated into nothing. Collier figures to back up Valentin at short, unless the Brewers finally let Mark Loretta win the everyday job.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded outfielder Alex Ochoa to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Darrell Nicholas. [12/14]

Signed infielder Brent Gates, outfielder Melvin Nieves, first baseman Eddie Williams and pitcher Ryan Hancock to minor-league contracts. Signed shortstop Christian Guzman and pitchers Danny Mota, Brent Stentz, and Travis Baptist to one-year contracts. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Frank Rodriguez to a one-year contract. Claimed pitcher Jose Espinal off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Signed catcher George Williams and pitcher Gary Rath to minor-league contracts. Designated shortstop Pat Meares for assignment. [12/18]

Signed infielder Denny Hocking to a two-year contract. [12/23]

Ochoa has turned into every bit the player that rec.sport.baseball denizens were hailing him as when the O's traded him, along with Damon Buford, for Bobby Bonilla in 1995. And I don't mean that in a good way. The Twins are better off without him, but then they never should have let their spats with Rich Becker get to the point that they'd trade him for an Ochoa in the first place. Now the Twins will give Nicholas a long look in center field (competing with Torii Hunter and Chris Latham, among others), and adding Mel Nieves for DH or corner outfield duty can't help but be an improvement over Ochoa or Otis Nixon in all phases of the game.

Frankie Rodriguez getting a contract from the Twins is a surprise, to say the least. He's in the doghouse more than Schottzie II, and a good career as a Twin is probably out of the question at this point. Considering the stiffs Minnesota was throwing out there towards the end of the season, he certainly still has the stuff to help out.

Denny Hocking or Pat Meares? That, my friends, is a question I hope your favorite organization never has to ask. But should we shed any tears for Meares? Hardly. If anything, his fate is a classic example of what the union has done wrong in terms of protecting its less talented members. Meares isn't a great player or really a very good one, and the Twins' decision to duck the "inevitable" arbitration payday Meares was "due" is a valid decision. Meares isn't significantly better than a passel of internal options or minor league free agents, certainly not better enough to justify an arbitration decision in the millions to pay for mediocrity. The union has spent it's time focusing on ways to inflate salaries for the top tier of players. Meanwhile, they've been slow to appreciate that the precedents created by salary arbitration have led to inflated (read: unrealistic) expectations that big paydays can happen for every major league veteran. As long as major league teams have the option to non-tender arbitration-eligible mediocrities, it doesn't work that way. I don't have a problem with that, but it does produce disappointment (and potentially lucrative freedom) for Mr. Meares, more wasted ink on those mean old cheap evil owners (stop me if you're heard that one before) from your local beat writer, and no plan of action from the union to spread the wealth more equitably among its members, or extending membership or benefits to the huge number of professional baseball players who deserve representation.

NEW YORK METS

Traded pitcher Willie Blair to the Detroit Tigers for infielder Joe Randa. [12/4]

Traded infielder Joe Randa to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Juan Le Bron. [12/10]

Signed outfielder Rickey Henderson to a one-year contract. [12/13]

Traded outfielder Butch Huskey to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Lesli Brea. [12/14]

Re-signed pitcher Josias Manzanillo and infielder Craig Paquette to minor-league contracts. [12/18]

Continuing their go-go ways this offseason, the Mets firm up their starting team by ditching some unwanted salary and replacing Butch Huskey in the outfield. Trading Willie Blair means that the Mets have escaped the Bernard Gilkey debacle more cheaply than they had any right to expect, and with their deep pitching staff they didn't really need Blair around anyway. Le Bron is a decent-looking prospect who's gotten a bad rap for his immaturity, but we're talking about a 21 year old.

Prior to their employing Tony Phillips last season, the Mets lacked a real leadoff hitter. They've addressed that need in a big way with the signing of Rickey Henderson, who is a shadow of his former self but who is also a better fit with the organization than Butch Huskey (or Phillips). Henderson is 40, but he still has speed and a better glove in left than either Huskey or Phillips, and he still gets on base despite the decay of his batting average and power. He should help his push to set the record for runs scored batting in front of Alfonzo, Olerud, Piazza, and Ventura.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed infielder Tony Phillips to a one-year contract. [12/11]

Re-signed catcher Mike Macfarlane to a one-year contract. [12/16]

Re-signed pitchers Buddy Groom and Gil Heredia to one-year contracts. [12/21]

Signed infielder Domingo Cedeno to a minor-league contract. [12/23]

In yet another green-and-gold prodigal son story, Tony Phillips returns to the organization he started his career with, back during the bad old Gorman Heimueller days. Phillips will replace Rickey Henderson fairly seamlessly in terms of leading off, but it's an open question as to what it means for playing time for others. Don't be surprised if Phillips gets spot starts at second and third as well as in left and DH. Macfarlane returns as the second catcher, where he hopefully won't take too much time away from A.J. Hinch, and Cedeno represents a useful offense-oriented replacement for Raffy Bournigal as the team's utility infielder. Heredia and Groom did some of their best work last year, and both were rewarded with new deals. It's really anyone's guess if they can continue to be effective as middle relievers, but don't be surprised if Heredia sneaks into the competition for a rotation spot.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed catcher Tom Prince to a two-year contract. Designated outfielder Billy McMillon for assignment. [12/15]

Who's got space for a player like Billy McMillon when you've got a catcher like Tom Prince (or an outfielder like Ron Gant, for that matter) all lined up? To be fair, Bobby Estalella's health is a major issue now that he's severely injured his shoulder, and with Lieberthal's rare pelvic injury, the Phillies need catching help, but it seems strange that of all the people to remove from the 40-man roster in their persistently shallow organization, it was a player with some offensive talent.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Traded pitcher Jon Lieber to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Brant Brown. [12/14]

Signed third baseman Ed Sprague to a one-year contract. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Pete Schourek to a two-year contract. [12/17]

Signed shortstop Rafael Bournigal, pitchers Jim Dougherty and Todd Ritchie, catcher Chris Tremie, infielder Matt Howard, outfielder Ray Montgomery, and first baseman Ivan Cruz to minor-league contracts. [12/22]

The Lieber deal was a terrible one for Pittsburgh; trading a useful innings-eater for a defensively challenged outfielder coming off the year of his career is never a very good idea, and it isn't like Brown is all that young. They managed to lose some depth in their pitching staff without gaining much of anything that they didn't already have in Brian Giles.

The Sprague signing is reason number one to dispense with "small market" rhetoric once and for all. Does a "small market" team really need to spend over a million dollars to sign one of the worst third basemen in baseball, especially when it already has TWO better third basemen around in Freddy Garcia and Aramis Ramirez around right now? Schourek will almost certainly never be the same after his dream season with Cincinnati in 1995; he probably won't even be able to replace Lieber without a noticible dropoff in quality. It's unfortunate that the Pirates, one of the few teams in MLB who will say they have money to spend, insist on making choices like these rather than signing some useful talent to supplement their core.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Re-signed outfielder Willie McGee to a one-year contract. Signed second baseman Pat Kelly to a minor-league contract. [12/8]

Designated pitcher Brady Raggio for assignment. [12/8]

Traded shortstop Pablo Ozuna and pitchers Armando Almanza and Braden Looper to the Florida Marlins for shortstop Edgar Renteria. [12/14]

Acquired catcher Matt Garrick from the Anaheim Angels to complete the Mark Petkovsek trade. [12/18]

The Cardinals got one of the best to replace Royce Clayton, but it cost them dearly. Renteria is one of the best shortstops in the majors, and he's still a young player, but both Almanza and Looper look as sure as pitching prospects can, and Ozuna is the best shortstop prospect in baseball today. If anything, it looks like the Cardinals are on the other end of the Templeton-for-Ozzie swap this time around. It does make sense for them to try to capitalize on Big Mac's and Lankford's immediate future to try to win now, and Renteria will be an important part of that. It's a daring gamble, and the Cardinals aren't significantly behind the Mets in terms of looking good for the wild card, even if their starting pitching doesn't heal up.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Re-signed catcher Carlos Hernandez to a three-year contract. [12/2]

Traded pitcher Joey Hamilton to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitchers Woody Williams and Carlos Almanzar and outfielder Peter Tucci. [12/13]

Signed second baseman Carlos Garcia to a minor-league contract. [12/16]

Signed outfielder Shane Mack to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Signed third baseman Dave Magadan to a one-year contract with club option for 2000. [12/22]

Carlos Hernandez' agent was talking three years and ten million bones, which is plainly ridiculous to anyone who has seen Hernandez flail away at a 0-0 pitch in the dirt. He's not the worst catcher in the majors, but the Padres already had Jimmy Leyritz and Greg Myers under contract for 1999, and Ben Davis moving up the minor-league chain. Hernandez' camp talked about how he took less to stay in San Diego, but they should be counting their blessings he was offered three years at all.

The team apparently has no plan to start Dave Magadan at third base, so look for him to back up George Arias in 1999. He's still woefully powerless, but he still hits for good average and has some patience at the plate.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed pitcher Greg Hansell to a one-year contract. Signed pitcher Bronswell Patrick to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Re-signed shortstop Rich Aurilia to a two-year contract. [12/17]

Sent pitcher Troy Brohwan and outfielder Chris Van Rossum to the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete the Felix Rodriguez trade. [12/21]

There isn't much to say here. The Giants aren't doing much to make themselves contenders in the NL West, but they may not have to as long as the Dodgers are spinning their wheels or the Padres are disembowelling themselves on points like "how do we keep Carlos Hernandez?"

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed designated hitter Jose Canseco to a four-year contract. [12/9]

Re-signed catcher John Flaherty to a one-year contract. [12/11]

Re-signed pitcher Scott Aldred to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Re-signed outfielder Mike Kelly to a one-year contract. [12/23]

Canseco will probably finish his career up in Tampa Bay, and like Wade Boggs, will be given every opportunity to set a career landmark as a D-Ray (3,000 hits for Boggs, and 500 HR for Canseco). In other words, the Devil Rays' want to play record ball while watching major league teams smack them around. I guess it's a plan. Of sorts.

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed catcher Mike Hubbard to a minor-league contract. Designated infielder Domingo Cedeno for assignment. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Mark Clark to a two-year contract with club option for 2001. [12/8]

Purchased outfielder Ricky Williams from the Montreal Expos. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Eric Gunderson to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Re-signed outfielder Mike Simms to a two-year contract and outfielder Tom Goodwin to a one-year contract. [12/21]

The Texas Rangers have the best running game in the majors with the trade for hometown favorite Williams. What he's useful for in a baseball sense is a bit harder to see; the Expos made a nice little move to pick him up and then peddle him to the Rangers and pocket the change. In any case, look for the Rangers to sign Cecil Fielder to block for Williams, and expect him to gobble up opponents in 1999.

Tom Goodwin is betting he'll repeat the first couple of months of 1998 and send his market value skyrocketing. I can't say I'm as optimistic as he is, but it could happen. Mike Simms did good work as a DH with the pennant winning Rangers last year, and is a useful part of a bench.

Mark Clark will be trying to fill Todd Stottlemyre's spot in the rotation with the club; he isn't the pitcher that Stottlemyre is, but 200 innings of sub-5.00 ERA ball isn't something the Rangers can afford to turn their noses up from, and Clark was cheaper and healthier than the Toad, not to mention the victim of the worst bullpen support in the major leagues. The chances that Clark will be good for the Rangers are pretty likely.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed outfielder Geronimo Berroa to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Traded pitcher Beiker Graterol to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Eric Ludwick. [12/14]

Re-signed pitcher Bill Risley to a one-year contract. [12/17]

Re-signed pitcher Joey Hamilton to a three-year contract. [12/21]

Signed catcher Mike Matheny to a one-year contract. Designated infielder Mike Peeples for assignment. [12/23]

The Blue Jays wasted no time in signing Joey Hamilton to a $17 million dollar deal. He hasn't really gotten it together since 1995, and he's actually regressed each successive season, which is troubling. He did pitch excellent baseball in the last half of last season, and is still fairly young. He should prove to be at least adequate as the number three starter in Toronto, and could turn out to be a lot more if he likes working with Dave Stewart as much as he did during the stretch in 1998.

Beiker Graterol? That's an X-Games name if I've ever heard one. Ludwick is probably still more talented than ex-Mets organizational mate Robert Person, so don't be surprised if he joins Person on the Blue Jays' roster. With Paul Quantrill recovering from a broken leg that should have him miss most of camp, and Bill Risley too fragile to pitch on consecutive days, the Jays will need as many live right-handed arms as they can get.

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

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