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February 13, 2004

Transaction Analysis

February 7-12, 2004

by Christina Kahrl

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS Return to Top

Lost their arbitration case with SS-R David Eckstein and will pay him $2.15 million rather than the $1.6 million the Angels were offering. [2/12]

It's interesting that the parties fought this all the way to the bitter end, but if the rumors that Eckstein is on the block are true, why try to strike a conciliatory note? If you're going to be traded, you may as well get compensated for it, since odds favor your having to move around a bit, and that isn't cheap. If you're not wanted, there's no benefit to agreeing to less; hometown discounts are right off the table. On the other hand, if you're stuck keeping the guy, why not keep him at the lowest possible price? Or if you're trying to deal him, why not make him as affordable to a potential suitor as possible? Either way, it makes sense to pick a fight, and then fight it.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Re-signed LHP B.J. Ryan to a one-year, $1.275 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/11]

Re-signed OF-L Jay Gibbons to a one-year, $2.6 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/12]

Not that one ought to affect another, but when you're already shelling out $3 million for Buddy Groom, it's hard to accept you have to pay another seven-figure chunk of change on the off chance that you might wind up with a single lefty reliever. And with John Parrish looking like he has his act together, not to mention the option to put Eric DuBose and/or Omar Daal in the pen if neither comes out of camp with a job in the pen, it starts to look as if the Orioles might have a few too many lefty relief options, with the particularly miserable rub being that the least useful of the lot is the one making too much money for anyone else to want for themselves, not at any price above a waiver claim.

At least Jay Gibbons is getting what he's worth.

CHICAGO CUBS Return to Top

Re-signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth to a one-year $1.4 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/11]

One of the game's more visibly emotional pitchers, for his troubles, Farnsworth has had to put up with a lot of sniping from fans and chatty kvetchery from his organization. So on that level, it's nice to see him collect a solid payday, because nobody should doubt that he really very earnestly wants to do well.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Purchased the contract of 1B-L Pete Rose, Jr. from Joliet (Northern League). [2/7]

Well, sign me up for the list of people who are comfortable condemning the Purple People to the lowest planes of Hell. There is nothing more craven and pathetic than a desperate ploy for popularity, much as it might be the rule of the day in an industry run by Bud Selig. Pete Jr. has no more business in organized baseball than his old man: He's 34, hit all of .260/.358/.330 in Joliet, or nowhere near enough for a man who can't play regularly anywhere but first. He hasn't had a good full season above A-ball in organized baseball since '97. He's a better player than Ted Williams' freaky son, but if he's asked to earn a job, he won't, because he can't. Signing him is both a cynical stunt, and an open confession that the Rockies don't take themselves very seriously. If Rox fans can, they might solace in the fact that since these aren't the Devil Rays, it's a bit more of the former than the latter.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Outrighted RHP Chris Mears to Triple-A Toledo. [2/12]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS Return to Top

Re-signed RHP Guillermo Mota to a one-year, $1.475 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/11]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Signed RHPs Garrett Berger and Jose De La Torre to minor league contracts. [2/10]

MINNESOTA TWINS Return to Top

Signed IF-B Jose Offerman to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/9]

I'm easy to please, I guess, because giving Offerman a chance to get beyond the misfortune of being labeled the Duke's Final Folly is a nice turn. Nobody deserves that fate, not Offerman, not Rudy Pemberton, and perhaps not even Mike Lansing. It's even more interesting when you consider that the team might have something resembling an opportunity at second base. Luis Rivas hasn't earned a free pass to Opening Day, but neither Augie Ojeda or Nick Punto look like they'd be upgrades as much as they'd play Cookie Newman to Rivas' Steve Lombardozzi. Now, admittedly, Offerman's not much of a second baseman, but that's what the other three are four, at least in terms of defensive replacement work. It's the sort of situation that encourages desperate thinking, but apparently not enough to encourage them to move Michael Cuddyer back to the infield.

MONTREAL EXPOS Return to Top

Won their arbitration case with 1B-L Nick Johnson and will pay him $1.25 million rather that the $1.68 million Johnson was asking for. [2/10]

Re-signed 1B/LF-R Joe Vitiello to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/12]

Ah, the flat-earth genius of the arbitration process. I don't know what's worse, that the Expos didn't settle, or that Johnson lost. The thing about Omar Minaya is, he might not have known that Johnson was worth the raise, or he might have been under orders to keep pay at a minimum, and with arbitration now functioning on the principle that three ignoramuses are better than one, why not take a roll of the dice? It isn't like he's been charged with building something, just keeping baseball's Potemkin franchise as close to working order as possible.

Somewhere in the greater L.A. area, one BP comrade and transplated Canuck is goofily happy as you read this, because Joe Vitiello is still an Expo. As fans, we've all been there. I was far too enthusiastic about Adam Piatt, and perhaps Dann Howitt. The interesting thing is that this time, Vitiello has a chance at a job, because Johnson's pretty fragile, Wil Cordero's a Marlin, and the bench is short on true right-handed hitters. Vitiello might get a full-blown platoon job at first, or he might settle for pinch-hitting and spot starts. Either way, it beats life in the bus leagues.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Signed RHP Ricky Bottalico to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/11]

Signed RHP James Baldwin to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/12]

You know how some moves reflect a deeper philosophy, inspiring panegyrics in articles such as these, or even a New York bestseller now and again? Well, these aren't those sorts of moves. These are roster moves of the coyote ugly variety, where you'll be wise to study up on local anesthetics, meat tenderizers, and whether your own arm will be more like pork or chicken, so that you can spice and season appropriately. As is, with Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths, Scott Erickson, Jason Middlebrook, and Shawn Sedlacek all in line fighting for that fifth slot in the rotation, and all representing better choices than Baldwin, we should weep for the good people of Norfolk, because if Jim Duquette's lucky, he won't have to see these guys pitch in the flesh after March.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Optioned LHP Mario Ramos to Triple-A Sacramento. [2/7]

I'm given to understand that Merlino's Freezes are making a comeback in ol' Sacto, which should make for a far sweeter summer than would otherwise be the case. Nobody makes an orange freeze like Merlino's, and given that a Sacramento summer is hotter than a televangelist still seven figures away from that summer home in Malibu, Mr. Ramos would be well advised to keep that in mind. If I remember correctly, my favorite stand was on Watt Avenue, around the corner from a Rico's Pizza, but there's room for disagreement on the subject.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Re-signed RHP Kevin Millwood to a one-year, $11 million contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/10]

A raise of only $1.1 million might not seem so great, but Millwood wasn't going to get more than that per annum in a multi-year deal, and why sign a multi-year deal with the Phillies? Odds are that the Phillies win right now, after which you can cash in on that, either with Philadelphia or somebody else. If the Phillies don't win this year, then you want to get the hell out of Dodge, regardless of whether or not Larry Bowa finally gets sent to the wall.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Signed OF-L Henry Rodriguez, and OF-R Ruben Mateo to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [2/7] Lost their arbitration case with SS-R Jack Wilson and will pay him $1.85 million rather than the $1.4 million the Pirates were offering. [2/12]

Ouch, you pick a fight with Jack Wilson, and you lose? What's that punchline, the one about how Team Fill-In-The-Blank doesn't beat anybody? Isn't that joke a little different when it's the little kids beating up a full-grown, healthy adult? I guess the danger there is that it can take a sadistic, Macaulay Culkin type of turn, where you really have to wonder what joy comes from watching people get hurt by an evil little kid. Dave Littlefield has been pretty put-upon of late, and at this rate, he's being kicked by life more often than an Army mule. I suppose we can feel sympathy and contempt, in equal doses.

At any rate, desperation takes new and interesting forms now that both Ruben Mateo and H-Rod are coming to town. But when your primary choices for outfield reserves include Andy Abad, Daryle Ward, and Chris Singleton, you understandably skip past digging for truffles and start searching for anything in the muck that'll keep you from starving. Pittsburgh is a great place to be if you're desperate for work; Jason Bay's knee isn't guaranteed to be 100% by Opening Day, which means J.J. Davis might have a shot. Center and right are both wide open, since Craig Wilson might be the first baseman, and Tike Redman isn't as good as he looked last year. For retreads like Mateo, Ward or Singleton, that's the most they can ask for. For someone like Abad, it's a great opportunity to get a spot at the end of the bench.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Signed LHP Ron Villone to a one-year, $1 million contract. [2/9]

Signed LHP Terry Mulholland, and OF-R Eric Owens to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [2/10]

How far have the Mariners fallen? Well, Villone comes in with a shot at the fifth slot in the rotation, with his competition limited to Raffy Soriano, Kevin Jarvis and Ryan Franklin. In the big league bullpen, there are only four locks: Eddie Guardado, Shiggy Hasegawa, Julio Mateo, and Rafael Soriano. Then the three losers in the rotation battle enter that picture, leaving a probable spot for a twelfth pitcher available to guys like Mulholland, Mike Myers, or any one of the survivors from the farm system. So Villone and Mulholland chose wisely, even if you have to be a bit frustrated for guys like Aaron Looper or J.J. Putz or Aaron Taylor.

It's a similar but uglier situation in the outfield. When Randy Winn is a lock for one slot, and so much is expected of Raul Ibanez, and this is a team that actually wanted Quinton McCracken, you can understand why Owens would want to be here. He may well be the fourth outfielder by default, and while even that role taxes his abilities to their limit, the real danger is that Winn or Ibanez could disappoint badly enough that Owens gets more playing time than he deserves because the team wants to let those happy feet inject some electricity into the lineup. I'd be sympathetic if I wasn't so happy to see the Mariners sliding back into the historical irrelevance from which they arose. It's a New Age of Bradly, folks. Phil Bradley.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

LHP Lance Painter, and RHP Russ Springer announced their retirements. [2/11]

At least Springer got a good paycheck out of the Snakes before it all fell apart. Overpaying for a former Braves reliever might yet achieve a no-go status rivaling those of former Blue Jay outfield prospects or non-Boggs third basemen from Boston's chain. Despite hanging around with the Cardinals for much of the last five years, Painter might be quitting with less name recognition than Ricky Horton in St. Louis today.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Signed 1B-L Fred McGriff to a minor league contract, with a spring training NRI. [2/10]

To what purpose would a team that already has to sort out how to squeeze Tino Martinez, Robert Fick, and Aubrey Huff into the two lineup slots open to a first baseman and DH, then go out and sign Fred McGriff? Even if the D-Rays do something funky, like giving Huff a chance to challenge Carl Crawford for at-bats in left, can McGriff hit his way past Fick or Tino? There isn't a lot of reason to expect he will, and since they're all lefties, there isn't a lot of platooning to be done. In short, the Rays decided to do the Crime Dog a favor, something he doesn't really deserve, and which they can't really exploit. If ever there was a team that should charge admission from the players for the right to put on the uniform, it's Tampa, except that it's Tampa, and who would pay to play for a Naimoli or a LaMar?

TEXAS RANGERS Return to Top

Signed RHP Brad Clontz and LHP Jordan Zimmerman to minor league contracts. [2/7]

Signed RHP Willie Banks to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/11]

With Brian Shouse, Erasmo Ramirez, and Ron Mahay on hand as useful big league lefties, not even Jeff Zimmerman's kid brother Jordan shouldn't get much more consideration than any other program gimmick. Clontz might get a look, if only because after Francisco Cordero and Jeff Nelson, you've got a lot of question marks among the right-handed relief help. Zimmerman has to show he's ready to pitch, and Jay Powell should be pitching for his life. R.A. Dickey should be plugged into a long relief/swing role again, and Rosman Garcia might get some consideration. In other words, it's not a great group. All three of these guys wouldn't wind up on a normal big league roster, but in Texas they have the chance to be more than organizational filler, they can be filler accruing big league service time.

Finally, let's just say it's good to finally get back into the swing of things this week, and I'm looking forward to a season of better, more frequent TAs in the days, weeks, and months to come, in no small part because of the assistance I'll be getting from Jason Karegeannes. For the curious, let me just say that this year's book, while always an all-consuming project that makes sure that if I was a holiday person before, I'm not now, is an outstanding first effort with our new publishing partner, Workman. I hope and expect that you'll all enjoy it as much as we enjoy putting it together.

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

Related Content:  Top 11,  The Who,  R.A. Dickey,  Top Reliever,  A-rod

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