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February 7, 1999

Transaction Analysis

January 28-February 6

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed INF Andy Stankiewicz to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI; signed LHP Chris Michalak, RHP Steve Mintz and OF Darold Butler to minor-league contracts. [1/25]

Signed LHP Mike Magnante to a one-year contract. [1/26]

Just in case you're wondering, Mike Holtz' window of opportunity is being shut now that the Halos have added Magnante. Bringing in the jug-eared portsider isn't a bad gamble for them. As for signing Andy Stankiewicz, few signings deserve to be considered more pointless. Even within the limited list of things you could want or expect from your utility infielder, Stankiewicz doesn't do either of the two things you'd most like out of a utility man: either you can use a guy with anything like an offensive skill (a little power like Steve Scarsone, or run like Paul Faries, or a little of everything from Robert Eenhorn), or the ability to play shortstop. "Stanky" doesn't do either, which makes him a poor man's Jeff Huson. He's got a split contract, which is money wasted if he makes the majors.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Agreed to terms with LHP Omar Daal on a two-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration. [1/26]

A nice resolution for what was one of several thoughtful gambles on journeymen by the D-backs last season. It isn't every day that the Expos ditch a pitcher with value before he becomes valuable, and losing him to the Blue Jays halfway through '97 is another of Jim Beattie's mistakes that need to be remembered.

BOSTON RED SOX

Signed 1B Bob Hamelin and RHP Rich Garces to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/26]

Bringing in the Hammer to take a crack at playing time at first or DH is a good thing; it could end up being a platoon with Jeff Frye, with Offerman moving to second when Hamelin plays, and first when Frye is in, but it's too early to know. I expect Hamelin will improve on last season: the Brewers used him primarily as a pinch-hitter, and that affected Hamelin's patience at the plate. With regular playing time, I could see his OBP bouncing back up.

CHICAGO CUBS

Agreed to terms with RHP Terry Adams on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/22]

Agreed to terms with RHP Matt Karchner on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/23]

This has to be reassuring to Cubs fans, yessiree. Did I mention that in case or when either or both fail, Ed Lynch has Scott Sanders waiting in the wings? I'm not being fair, though, in that a good major league manager would be able to straighten Adams and Karchner out, and if Riggleman were to show a bit of patience, the Cubs might finally be rewarded with some consistent middle relief help.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed OFs John Cangelosi and Darrin Jackson to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs; invited RHP Kip Wells to spring training with a NRI; outrighted RHP John Ambrose to Birmingham (Double-A). [1/26]

As promised (or threatened), the Sox have finally brought in their potential road blocks for Brian Simmons. Cangelosi has a past history with Manuel from their service on the '97 world champion Marlins, not to mention the bad old days when he was roaming center for the Sox back in '86. He has value as a spare part and bench player, but there is the danger that he could steal playing time or a job from Simmons. As for Jackson, it is unfortunate that he reconsidered his decision to retire. One beat writer enthused that it's been "only five years" since his good season with the Sox, 1994. It's an unfortunate comment, since the differences between 30 (and being at the tail end of a player's potential peak) and 35 (and being one of the worst-hitting OFs in baseball) are pretty dramatic.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Agreed to terms with LHP Ron Villone on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/25]

Signed RHP Dave Stevens to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI; signed RHP Scott Klingenbeck to a minor-league contract. [1/26]

The Indians don't have room for the three of them, but a team could use Villone or Stevens. The "problem" is that the Tribe is already overstocked in the bullpen, especially since they brought in Jerry Spradlin and Riccardo Rincon. Klingenbeck will look good as a Bison, maybe even good enough that somebody would trade for him, a la Dave Weathers.

DETROIT TIGERS

Invited RHP Nick Skuse to spring training with a NRI. [1/26]

Claimed RHP Mike Grzanich off of waivers from the Astros. [1/27]

Not a bad little claim, but the Tigers' pen is already pretty full of good-looking alternatives. Skuse is the classic Randy Smith project pitcher: huge (6'7") and throws hard, so don't be surprised if he gets a long look, or gets traded to the Astros, Padres, or Rockies.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed 3B Josh Booty on the mercifully retired list at Calgary. [1/22]

Invited RHPs Bobby Rodgers, Archie Corbin, Hector Almonte, Rob Stanifer,

Dario Perez, and Dennis Springer, LHP Ed Yarnall, SSs Benji Gil and Pablo Ozuna, 1Bs Tim Hyers and Kevin Millar, INF Chris Clapinski, C Ryan Robertson, DHs John Roskos and Chris Norton, 2B Lionel Hastings, and OFs Darond Stovall, Bruce Aven and Fletcher Bates to spring training with NRIs. [1/25]

There are some surprises in the invite list, in that it isn't unlikely that four or five guys on this list could make the team. Yarnall, of course, but there's also Gil, Aven, Springer. Clapinski would have to displace Dave Berg, and Roskos and Millar may fight for a spot as a pinch-hitter.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed RHP Xavier Hernandez to a one-year contract. [1/25]

Designated RHP Mike Grzanich for assignment. [1/26]

The X-man failed his physical, which gets him out of Baltimore (which cost them Willie Greene, if I remember correctly), which leads the Orioles to sign the fearsome Heathcliff Slocumb, all while they're also adding Richie Amaral... okay, this is supposed to be about the Astros, and here I am kicking Frank Wren on your dime. If anyone is going to get anything out of Hernandez and his bum shoulder, then the combination of the Astrodome and Larry Dierker and Vern Ruhle adds up to the best-case scenario for him.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed RHP Pete Smith, OF Tony Tarasco and INF Steve Scarsone to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/25]

Signed RHP Tim Scott to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/26]

The Royals are putting on a "free talent" exhibition. I could easily envision a powder-blue future that has Pete Smith in the rotation, and Tarasco getting 300 PAs, Scarsone pummeling Shane Halter out of a roster spot, and Tim Scott coming back from a year of recuperation to be a semi-useful arm in the pen. Any and all of these moves could turn out well on their own terms, the problem being that the Royals are currently weak enough that they're all within the realm of the possible. As long as none of these signing impact on a commitment to play Giambi, Beltran, and Febles, they're harmless to the team's future.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Invited RHPs Kyle Peterson, Jim Converse, Steve Falteisek, Reggie Harris, Rod Henderson, Ryan Henderson, Hector Ramirez, Tim VanEgmond, and William VanLandingham, LHP Jeff Granger, Cs Alex Andreopoulos and Jorge Brito, DHs Brandon Cromer, Todd Dunn and Luis Ortiz, and SS Eddie Zosky to spring training with NRIs. [1/25]

Signed LHP Jim Abbott to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2000; designated CF Greg Martinez for assignment. [1/26]

Agreed to terms with INF Mark Loretta on a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration. [1/27]

As I've stated in the past about Abbott, five starts against weak competition is no basis for realistic expectations. I expect him to crash and burn as a Brewer. And what's going to happen when he has to bat, now that he's in the National League? I wish him well, and I hope he succeeds, but I really doubt he will. If anything, the Brewers are better off taking their chances with Rod Henderson or VanEgmond in the fifth slot of the rotation, at least until Peterson shows whether or not he'll be ready. Bringing in Reggie Harris warms the cockles of Huckabay's heart, but there probably isn't room for him.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Signed 1B/OF Orlando Merced to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/27]

Worst-case scenario is that Merced gives the Expos everything they expected from Derrick May and more, and thus blocking Bergeron or Seguignol or somebody else who can play baseball.

NEW YORK METS

Signed UT Mariano Duncan to a minor-league contract and with a spring training NRI; signed "3B" Mike Kinkade. [1/22]

Signed 2B Ralph Milliard to a minor-league contract. [1/25]

Duncan's coming back from a bad season in Japan; I'm dubious about the sense of bringing him in. Milliard still looks stranded; the Mets could apply the thinking that told them to sign Ventura to move Alfonzo to second, and use it to move Alfonzo to short to play Milliard at second, but that would be really unreasonable to expect. It's more like the Mets to trade for Fernando Vina, assuming they even acknowledged St. Rey as a problem in the first place.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Issued NRIs to spring training to Cs Tim McIntosh, Michael Hernandez, Jaime Torres, Victor Valencia and B.J. Waszgis, 3B Mike Coolbaugh, INF Clay Bellinger, 2B Brian Raabe, OFs Bubba Carpenter, Alonzo Powell and Jerome Walton, DH Darryl Strawberry, and RHPs Jason Grimsley, Jeff Juden, Dave Pavlas, Chris Nichting, David Carroll and Katsuhiro Maeda. [1/26]

There's a sort of kismet with the realization that "personality" players like Jeff Juden and Kat Maeda should be teammates in Columbus. Along with the epically wild Grimsley and scab Dave Pavlas, there's something intriguing about what a strange bunch of guys will suit up for the Clippers in '99.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed 1B Jeff Ball to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/22]

Signed LF/DH Tim Raines to a one-year contract. [1/25]

I'm not a big fan of bringing in Raines, since he doesn't do either of the things the A's need (pound lefties or play second), but he does give the team flexibility in terms of moving Tony Phillips to second if Spiezio continues to scuffle or to third if they get frustrated with Chavez. I don't really expect either Spiezio or Chavez to disappoint, so I suspect Raines will just get a start a week in left, and starts at DH (especially against LHPs), and some pinch-hitting for Hinch, Tejada, or Spiezio. If it becomes more than that, things will have gone seriously awry.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed 1B John Zuber to a minor-league contract. [1/22]

Signed OF Billy McMillon to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/25]

Now if only McMillon got a crack at the starting job in left. It may yet happen, in that Ron Gant isn't a great bet for extended health or tremendous performance. On the other hand, McMillon's already 27, so his chances of ever getting as much of a career as even Warren Newson are getting pretty slim.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed 2B Carlos Baerga to a one-year contract. [1/26]

Maybe there's a hidden market for bad ballplayers in turquoise leather jumpsuits, but I'm glad this isn't my money. Baerga has become an awful defensive player, and his offensive contributions aren't enough to make you want to put up with his glove. We're talking about a guy who hasn't slugged .400 since '95, and who hasn't drawn twenty walks under his own power since '96 (when he drew 21). He barely has anything over Adam Kennedy right now, and signing him for ten times as much as it would have cost to bring in Brian Raabe or Dave Hajek or Jason Hardtke in case Pat Kelly hurts himself and in case Kennedy isn't ready is simply a waste. Baerga isn't really any better than any of these guys, but his salary will make it that much more difficult for the Cardinals to add salary later when they decide to trade for a starting pitcher once Oliver or Osborne break down in a season that is beginning to shape up as a big push to try to get some piece of postseason pie before McGwire and Lankford get old. Maybe it's me, but signing Baerga reminds me an awful lot of the miserable decision back in '87, when LaRussa dragged in Tony Bernazard's carcass to cover for Tony Phillips' latest injury. The difference is that Bernazard (also 30 at the time) was better then than Baerga is now.

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed RHP Mike Morgan to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/26]

Agreed to terms with RHP Tim Crabtree on a two-year contract with a club option for 2001, avoiding arbitration. [1/27]

The Rangers' rotation is already pretty well set (Helling, Sele, Clark, Loaiza, and Burkett), so Morgan may end up becoming a very valuable long reliever. He's handled the job in the past, he still has excellent control, but the problem may be his ability to pitch on consecutive days. The Rangers are the kind of team that may carry 12 pitchers, so they may be able to put up with it.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

No news here, just making up for something I forgot to get into last week in regard to the Willie Greene situation (thanks to Jon Bernstein for pointing out this oversight): Tom Evans' latest shoulder injury. The Jays are saying it won't require surgery, and that he'll undergo heavy rehab in anticipation that he'll be ready to go by the time camp opens. If Evans really can play, Willie Greene should spend a good chunk of time at DH, and Tony Fernandez will have to time-share at second with Cora and/or Grebeck, and third with Greene. Although Fernandez has his limitations afield, playing him at short once or twice a week probably wouldn't hurt too badly, as long as you did it with strikeout/flyout pitchers who can survive with barely-adequate infield defense. If Evans can't play, then Greene will split his time between DH and third, while Fernandez will get most of the playing time at third. Basically, the Jays are pretty well covered, even if they didn't have to sign Cora to get there.

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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