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December 1, 1997

Transaction Analysis

November 24-30

by Christina Kahrl

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Named Mark Connor pitching coach, and signed LHP Kirt Ojala to a minor league contract. [11/26]

Although clearly less guilty than the D-Rays in this regard, chalk this up as an example of Buck Showalter wanting people he's familiar with. Connor was his pitching coach with the Yankees, and the Boss' decision to blame Connor for some inadequacy (real or imagined) was another reason for Buck to give up on wearing pinstripes. Ojala is a dandy signing, and could be a good example of the veteran minor league pitcher who had to wait for expansion to get an opportunity, except of course he can pitch. That won't lead to a broader acceptance by the media that there are lots of minor league veteran pitchers who can play ball, mind you.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Announced that Eddie Murray has joined the team as a coach. [11/24]

Re-signed C Lenny Webster to a one-year (plus one-year option) contract. [11/25]

Small potatoes, although I suppose everyone can breathe a sigh of relief that Murray didn't try to hang on for one more year with somebody, somewhere. Re-signing Webster isn't without an element of controversy, since he was scapegoated in the playoffs for his glovework, and backing up Chris Hoiles, his job is for the most part as a defensive sub. But he's also Erickson's personal catcher, so the O's may not have had much choice in the matter.

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired the contract of LF Jimmy Hurst from the Tigers for cash. [11/24]

With Jose Malave sold off to Japan, Hurst will step right into the ol' cleanup spot for the PawSox. Unless Duquette swears off biweekly roster moves, he'll get eight games and 14 PAs at some point next year. Don't mistake him for a prospect.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Requested waivers on RHP Jeff Darwin for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release. [11/26]

Along with last weeks' removals of Mouton and Fonville, the Sox are clearing away all of the young veterans of unproven quality on the roster. Darwin is a good bet to sign wherever his older brother winds up, for the entertainment value. Barring that, he's still capable of being a useful fourth or fifth righty in a major league pen.

CINCINNATI REDS

Signed RHPs Toby Borland, Daron Kirkreit, and Ramon Fermin, and LHP Riccardo Jordan to minor league contracts. [11/27]

Jim Bowden's shopping spree for pitching on the cheap yields some interesting catches. Borland is only a year removed from an outstanding '96 as a middle reliever with the Phillies; he's that rarest of rare treats, the wild sidearmer, but with steady work, he can be useful. Jordan throws reasonably hard for a lefty, and the Reds are desperate for LH relief, so he has the inside track on a bullpen job in '98. Kirkreit is your basic blown rotator cuff survivor: he's still struggling with what's left of his talent. Fermin is your basic stiff out of the A's chain from the years when they were touting Tanyon Sturtze and Joe Slusarski, and will entertain/terrify Indianapolis season ticket holders.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Claimed UT Chad Fonville off of waivers from the White Sox. [11/25]

The Rich family is probably less than enthusiastic about this, not that Bisons fans are any happier about it.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed OF/PH Dave Clark to a one-year contract. [11/24]

Re-signed INF Billy Spiers to a two-year contract. [11/25]

Signed RHP Doug Henry to a two-year contract. [11/26]

These are the pickups of a team convinced it just needs a wee bit o' help to lock up its playoff spot. Clark is the best 4th OF and pinch-hitter in the business, and a good LH bat to mix in with Alou and Bell for spot starts in the OF corners. Re-signing Spiers is a risk, but with one more year of Sean Berry to endure, and none of the SS prospects from Russ Johnson down to Jhonny Perez looking like they'll hit well enough to work their way up at third, they're hoping '97 wasn't the stuff of pixie dust, which is your basic bad bet. Henry's agent deserves alot of credit: he's kept his big fly-prone man in pitcher's parks wherever possible, and if he's survived the abusive workload Dusty Baker heaped on him last year (6.59 ERA after the A-S break after tossing 42 innings in 44 appearances in the first 87 games), should be the adequate setup man for Billy Wagner that the Astros felt they needed.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed C Mike Macfarlane to a one-year contract. [11/25]

Herk Robinson hedges his "commitment" to Mike Sweeney, which at this point is getting pretty silly. If the Royals are ever going to win more than 80 games in the next five or six years, it'll be with Mike Sweeney after plenty of major league playing time, and not by sharing the job with "Bud" until Sweeney's seasoned or double-dipped or twice-baked or whatever.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed C Tom Prince to a one-year contract. [11/24]

Last week saw a run on backup catchers, almost all of whom returned to their previous employers. At what point are we supposed to believe the chestnut that fans have a hard time following today's game because of roster turnover?

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed RHPs Scott Ruffcorn, Johnny Ruffin, Bobby Chouinard, and Bronswell Patrick, and LHPs Matt Dunbar and Enrique Burgos to minor league contracts. [11/2?]

The Brewers were caught short-handed on pitching in the upper levels of the farm system last year, as well as on the major league team down the stretch, so Sal Bando proudly announced these moves as the sort of thing that will forestall all of that. That said, these aren't a bad lot of signings for the Louisville shuttle: Ruffin will get to see if last year's injury cost him the fastball that excited people in the first place, Chouinard and Ruffcorn will have the opportunities to work their way into the Brewers' troubled fifth spot in the rotation, and Dunbar and Burgos will... be left-handed, which means they'll be gainfully employed while hoping they get the same break Ed Vosberg did.

NEW YORK METS

Signed 1B John Olerud to a two-year contract. [11/24]

Signed P Juei Ushiromatsu. [11/26]

The Olerud signing (for two years at $8M) was remarkable in light of the amazing Galarraga signing for twice as much money in Atlanta just days earlier. Its a buyers' market for firstbasemen, and Steve Phillips didn't overpay for a good player while his divisional rival was blowing twice as much on half the player.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed INF Dale Sveum to a two-year contract. [11/25]

Sveum wins the lottery! This is double-double insurance in case both Scott Brosius and Luis Sojo don't turn out so well, and the Yanks decide they don't want to play the better, younger alternatives like Mike Lowell or Andy Fox. Chalk this up as a spite signing by Bob Watson, who's doing his damnedest to earn the ax.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Traded RHP Don Wengert and 2B/OF David Newhan to San Diego for RHP Doug Bochtler and SS Jorge Velandia. [11/26]

Ugh. Blech. Gack. The market for serviceable middle men is steeper than it should be when a good prospect like Newhan has to be given up to get Doug Bochtler. Getting Velandia isn't exactly good news either, because it gives the A's a ghastly alternative to just pencilling in Miggy Tejada on Opening Day, and they already had one of those in Raffy Bournigal. At least Don Wengert will be inflicting blunt trauma wounds to various bleacher denizens in a different county...

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed C Jimmy Gonzalez, RHP Jose Parra, and LHP Al Newman to minor league contracts. [11/24]

Signed C Greg Myers to a two-year contract; waived RHP Rich Batchelor. [11/25]

Traded RHP Doug Bochtler and SS Jorge Velandia to Oakland for RHP Don Wengert and 2B/OF David Newhan. [11/26]

Kevin Towers makes some more dandy little moves. Signing Myers to a two-year deal creates a handy platoon with Carlos Hernandez for a year or two pending Ben Davis' arrival, with Mandy Romero now looking like the regular at Vegas. Jimmy Gonzalez is usually mistaken for a cross between a toaster and a brick wall with his glovework behind the plate, so he shouldn't be in the mix. The Bochtler trade has brought the Pads a good hitting prospect in David Newhan, who's been futzing around pretty unsuccessfully as a secondbaseman, and who's more likely to wind up in an OF corner. Cutting Batchelor has reduced the midseason trade with the Cardinals to getting Mark Sweeeney for two months of Phil Plantier's not-very-valuable time, plus the ink wasted on announcing the release of Fernando, Danny Jackson, Scott Livingstone, and now Batchelor.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Re-signed OF Stan Javier to a two-year contract. [11/26]

Although some people are saying this is just a temp job for Javier until Dante Powell or Jake Cruz are ready to stick, if the Giants are smart, it'll be to start Stan in center while Brian Sabean comes up with some way to get Darryl Hamilton out of a Giants' uniform. In other words, some people have it right, and Sabean will get to eat a few words instead of contracts to go with his crow in '98.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Picked up the team option on LHP Jamie Moyer contract for '98; claimed RHP Cam Smith off of waivers from San Diego. [11/26]

Well, that's one advantage to having such an awful farm system: you've got room for waiver claims. Smith isn't really much better than Mac Suzuki, which makes him one of the best pitchers in the organization, which is another way of saying Piniella's got this friend by the name of Jack Armstrong, who needs work, and...

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed RHP Scott Klingenbeck to a minor-league contract. [11/24]

Extended the contracts of GM Doug Melvin and manager Johnny Oates through '99; outrighted OF Andrew Vessel to Oklahoma City. [11/25]

Klingenbeck's signed with the right organization, if only because its the one that values people like Tanyon Sturtze and Terry Clark. With that kind of competition, it may not even take one injury for Klingenbeck to move up to the majors.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Named Tim Johnson manager. [11/24]

Signed LHP Randy Myers to a three-year contract, and C Darrin Fletcher to a two-year contract (plus one-year option for '00). [11/26]

Signed INFs Craig Grebeck and Pat Kelly to minor league contracts. [11/27]

Memo from Gord Ash to Jeff Patzke: you're screwed. The BJs should either be considering moving Crespo back to second or playing Patzke there, but now they've got two mediocrities who didn't pan out as well as some of us would have liked. Crespo may yet stick as a utility man, but Patzke is basically condemned to leave as a minor league free agent or spend another year at Syracuse. The addition of Myers only gives the Jays a deep pen, but it won't add much in the way of wins. Signing Fletcher is the well-deserved kiss of death for Sandy Martinez, and indicative of how weak the catching situation is in the organization; he'll essentially platoon with last year's free agent boondoggle, Benito Santiago. As for the hiring of Johnson, he has a good reputation as a handler of pitchers from his stints as a bench coach in Montreal and Boston, and he did a fine job with a basically crummy Iowa staff. He's got some learning to do as far as managing an offense.

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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