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January 13, 1999

Transaction Analysis

December 29-January 12

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed OF Matt Luke to a one-year contract. [1/12]

Luke isn't the world's worst spare outfielder, except that he isn't really a good match for the Angels. Left-handed power isn't something a team with Mo Vaughn and Erstad and Edmonds needs, and a fifth outfielder who gets on base (like Orlando Palmeiro) is something a team using Garret Anderson will always need. A pointless addition, given the team's available talent.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed RHP Frank Castillo to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/12]

Castillo and his agent were apparently laughing off NRI offers in November. Either his agent is dumb, or his agent isn't being honest with his client. For the purposes of you and me, the difference isn't significant, but Frank may want to give it some thought.

BOSTON RED SOX

Signed RHP Kip Gross; signed LHP Rheal Cormier to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/5]

Signed RHP Pat Rapp to a one-year contract with an option for 2000. [1/11]

Signed OF Pedro Valdes to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/12]

Between Gross and Rapp, you might be hard-pressed to pick which one should be the fifth starter. Gross is coming off a pretty good multi-year run in Japan, although he missed a couple of months this past year with a bad elbow. At the least, you'd have to hope he'll turn out better than the Duke's last Japanese adventure, Robinson Checo. Rapp was pretty crummy for the Royals, and hasn't really resolved his control problems, so this is hardly the sort of move that's going to keep Boston ahead of Toronto, let alone give Brian Cashman indigestion. The additions of Rapp and Mark Portugal are being hailed as some sort of mini-trend, where the Red Sox are supposed to be "acquiring NL pitchers," except that isn't really true. How many people think of Sabes as a Met instead of as a Royal? Last I checked, Portugal was developed by the Twins, and finally, in the cases of Rapp and Portugal, who cares where they came from if they aren't any good? Poor Pedro Valdes, another solid minor league veteran who could handle a major league job, and now condemned to a season at Pawtucket, the graveyard for many a Ken Phelps All-Star.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed RHP Tanyon Sturtze, OF Dwayne Hosey, and INF Tilson Brito to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring training. [1/6]

Traded C Joe Sutton to the Dodgers for RHP Darren Hall. [1/12]

Sutton isn't really a prospect, so the best news here is that acquiring Hall may make the Sox feel comfortable enough with their bullpen that they'll finally move Keith Foulke to the rotation if his arm is sound in camp. The flip side of the coin is that it could signal that they're serious about peddling Bill Simas before he gets expensive. As for Hall, he's you're basic run-of-the-mill mediocre reliever, so maybe the Sox can turn him into a Cub 15 saves and six months from now, in exchange for something good. Brito and Hosey both have surprisingly solid chances to earn jobs with the Sox, Hosey as a potential platoon mate with Brian Simmons in center, and Brito as the team's utility infielder, since it isn't likely that Craig Wilson is going to hit much more than half of last season's .468 cup of coffee.

CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired P Pedro Minaya from the Marlins for OF Pat Watkins. [1/6]

Signed C Brian Johnson to a one-year contract. [1/11]

So the Reds now have two weak defensive catchers in Taubensee and Johnson, which means they'll probably carry a third as a defensive replacement. At least Bowden managed to snag a hard-throwing kid for Watkins, who had quickly worked his way into Jack McKeon's always-spacious doghouse.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHPs Dave Telgheder and Mike Walker, INF Jeff Manto, SS Orlando Miller, and C Chris Turner to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring training. [1/5]

The leavenings of another strong Bisons roster, unless you're part of the lunatic fringe that still thinks Orlando Miller is/was a prospect.

DETROIT TIGERS

Named Juan Samuel first-base, outfield, and baserunning coach, and Alan Trammell hitting instructor. [1/5]

Invited INF Jason Bates and RHP Brandon Reed to training camp. [1/6]

Announced that RHP Bryan Corey cleared waivers and assigned him to Toledo. [1/8]

Getting Tramm' into uniform is a good thing, and I hope he's up to the job. Some happy minor league player (you would hope) should tithe part of his contract to the Tigers for finally getting Samuel out of uniform. I'm assuming Samuel coaching the outfield is your basic "those who can't, teach" scenario.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired OF Pat Watkins for P Pedro Minaya. Signed RHP Matt Mantei to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/11]

Mantei will get first crack at the closer's job, assuming he's healthy in consecutive months. Watkins joins Preston Wilson and Bruce Aven in the battle for the fourth and fifth outfield spots with the Marlins. There isn't much to recommend him over either, unless Aven is still hurt.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Re-signed C Tony Eusebio to a one-year contract. [1/12]

Don't be surprised when you see at least one story in print about how Darryl Kile's continuing struggles on the surface of Planet Coors are because he doesn't have his "personal catcher," Tony Eusebio. It'll be a slow news day. Very slow.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed RHP A.J. Sager to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.

With the great Rickey Bones gone, and with the equally great Hipolito Pichardo looking like damaged goods (again), the just-as-great Sager will get every opportunity to be a long reliever and spot starter for The Last Team Herk Built.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed OF Chen Chin-Feng from Taiwan to a six-year contract. [1/5]

Signed LHPs Pedro Borbon, Chris Haney, Matt Jarvis, and Gavin Osteen, RHPs Jaime Arnold and Matt Herges, 1B Kevin Grijak, Pete "the Hit Prince" Rose Jr., and Cs Tim Laker and Hector Ortiz to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring training. [1/6]

Signed PH Dave Hansen to a one-year contract; waived RHP Doug Bochtler outright. [1/11]

Traded RHP Darren Hall to the White Sox for C Joe Sutton; signed LHP Greg Cadaret to a one-year contract. [1/12]

Hold your horses, sports fans, San Antonio can look forward to Pete Rose Jr.! Woohooo! Talk about Fox creativity! The synergies are so... compelling? Obvious? Underwhelming? All right, so I shouldn't write after chugging a Mountain Dew.

The real interest here is that Hansen is exactly the kind of player Davey Johnson knows how to use (regularly), and that the Dodgers seem convinced they can get by with any old chaff to replace Scott Radinsky and Mark Guthrie for their left-handed setup duties. Aided by Chavez Ravine (and Jeff Kubenka), they're probably right. As for Chin-Feng mania, the Taiwanese wunderkind will almost certainly spend '99 in the minors.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed CF Rick Becker to a one-year contract. [1/11]

A great signing, in that it wipes out any opportunity that the Brewers might hand the fourth OF job to Greg Martinez or someone like him. The way to make this even better is if Becker gets an opportunity to play his way into a job-sharing arrangement with Marquis Grissom.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Re-signed C Terry Steinbach to a one-year contract; signed 3B Brian Richardson to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/4]

The bottom line is that the Twins saved themselves almost a million dollars for not picking up Steinbach's option, which in terms of agressive "small market" financing, is good common sense. Does it create hard feelings? Maybe, but compare this situation to what Jim Bowden did to Jeff Shaw. The Twins were relatively forthright about what they had to do, and Steinbach appears able to live with it.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Sent RHP Jason Cole to Arizona to complete the Ramon Morel trade. Claimed LHP Roberto Duran off of waivers from the Tigers. [1/7]

A classic Expos snag. Four years from now, don't be surprised if Duran is staring at a huge arbitration payoff, and gets traded to the Dodgers or Arizona after giving Felipe Alou around 220 quality innings. The man cooks with gas.

NEW YORK METS

Signed UT Jerry Brooks. [1/12]

NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed RHP Dan Naulty to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/11]

Well, now the Clippers can breathe a sigh of relief. They'll have Dan Naulty anchoring their pen.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed RHP Kevin Jarvis to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/4]

Signed RHP Billy Taylor to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/6]

Signed OF Marc Newfield to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/7]

Signed RHP Mike Oquist to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/8]

Signed RHP Doug Jones to a one-year contract. [1/11]

I don't mind bringing in 42 year old Doug Jones; after all, he can give young whippersnappers like Billy Taylor (37) or Buddy Groom (a tender 33) a few pointers on the palmball, moustache maintenance, and a little bit more about the palmball. Oquist has a very slim chance to compete for the fifth spot; if he wins, several other things will have gone horribly wrong to get Gil Heredia, Blake Stein, Jay Witasick, Eric DuBose, and Mark Mulder out of the way.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RHP Rodney Bolton and C Andy Stewart to minor league contracts. [1/5]

Some times, it pays not to listen to me. This is probably one of those times: I think Rod Bolton can pitch, but I thought Scott Ruffcorn could pitch. There isn't much market for bold claims that Bolton could put up 100 major league innings that would make Phillies fanatics forget Garrett Stephenson. Bolton doesn't throw hard, has outstanding control, and his potential up-side has already been trailblazed by Rick Reed. That's better than taking one more spin with Tyler Green, but Paul Byrd is first in line for a rotation spot.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed 1B Domingo Martinez to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training; invited RHPs Kris Benson and Todd Van Poppel, LHP Rich Sauveur, UT Steve Bieser, and 2Bs Jeff Patzke and Warren Morris to spring training. [1/5] Agreed to terms with 2B Tony Womack on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/12]

America's favorite small market team bent on running itself into the ground doesn't have much to brag about here. They're seriously considering an infield of Womack, Sprague, and Benjamin, when Morris or Patzke, Freddy Garcia or Aramis Ramirez, and Abe Nunez would be better in every phase of the game, not to mention cheaper. The Pirates are looking like one of the great "might have beens," a team that could have been competitive if they elected to stick with the "cheap youth" craze of '97, but who instead blew bucks on Ed Sprague.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed OF Darren Bragg to a one-year contract (with a club option for 2000). [1/12]

A very good signing for the Cardinals, in that Bragg will be the team's fourth outfielder, pushing Willie McGee almost strictly to pinch-hitting. Of course, the news isn't all happy if you're somebody like Mark Little or Joe McEwing. First, over the holidays they get the news that McGee isn't ready to quit, then this. Can you time-share a lump of coal?

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Claimed RHP Steve Connelly off of waivers from the Red Sox. Signed UT F.P. Santangelo to a one-year contract. [1/8]

Surprise, surprise, Duquette has his bluff called in another skirmish in waiver wire warfare. The addition of supersub Santangelo is a great move for the Giants. That they got him for only $500,000 might make this one of the best free agent signings of the season. Not that we're suddenly going to become Sabeanians...

SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed OF/1B John Mabry to a two-year contract. [12/31]

Signed RHP Bill Swift to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/8]

The Mariners were overjoyed to find Mabry available. They're busy talking up how great their bench is going to be now that they have Butch Huskey and Mabry, but what those two have in common is that Russ Davis could be the defensive replacement for either of them at third, and neither hits well enough to be much more than (now-expensive) spare parts. Naturally, Piniella is talking about how many great pinch-hitters he's going to have, but how many times can he pinch-hit for Carlos Guillen? Dick Williams tried to get around having his second basemen bat back in his days running the A's by pinch-hitting for them early and often, and it didn't work. Unless the Mariners move the NL, they haven't accomplished much. More symptomatic is re-signing Billy Swift while talking about what a good job he did last year. We're talking about a guy who has a hard time keeping his ERA under six, or getting to the end of the fifth inning. But c'mon, he's old enough for Lou, so results apparently don't count. The trident chuckers still don't what they're doing, but they're spending money, so they feel confident.

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed RHP Brady Raggio and INF P.J. Forbes to minor league contracts. [1/5]

Re-signed LHP Tony Fossas to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/7]

The Fossil had a good warmup session or two in the last ten months, so he gets a contract.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed OFs Wayne Kirby and Jimmy Hurst to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring training. [1/6]

What's more sadistic: treating the good folks of Syracuse to Jose Herrera, like they did last year, or bringing in Wayne Kirby? Some folks have said nice things about Hurst in the past, but I'm not a believer. Adequate-hitting minor league DHs aren't what any self-respecting team needs. Okay, so the Tigers or the Royals could use him.

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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