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December 8, 1997
December 1-7ANAHEIM ANGELS
Signed C Eric Helfand to a minor league contract. [12/3]
Signed LHP Greg Cadaret and 3B Frank Bolick to minor league contracts. [12/4]
Signed INF Steve Scarsone to a minor league contract. [12/5]
Fillin' up for Vancouver... Scarsone is a handy utility infielder with good offensive skills vs. LHPs, and with Craig Grebeck's departure, will probably lock up the utility infielder role. Bolick is essentially insurance for the Angels' wide-open situation at the infield corners, with rumors still abounding that Jim Edmonds will be dealt to allow Darin Erstad to move to center. Cadaret can still help a team as a spot lefty. Eric Helfand knows what thumbs are for.
Traded 3B Travis Fryman, LHP Tom Martin, and $3 million to Cleveland for 3B Matt Williams; signed Williams to a five-year contract extension. [12/1]
Signed RHP Willie Blair to a three year contract. [12/6]
A-mazing. Somebody had better inform Jerry Colangelo that the star system doesn't keep players employed and productive in baseball like it does in the NBA. The key aspects to the Williams trade was his desire to be closer to his children (living with his ex-wife), Arizona's impulsive "I want it NOW" sensibility, and John Hart's ability to drive a hard bargain. But only the D-backs think Williams is worth five years at $9M per, which means that if they're stuck with Williams and Bell for the life of their contracts, they'll have the oldest left side of the infield since Cey and Bowa for the Cubs in '84-'85. Although the Blair signing is being fricasseed just as readily, Blair has never really been completely worthless, and he's avoided major arm injuries because of the time he's spent in the bullpen. Still, I wouldn't want to be the one paying him to prove that he isn't a pumpkin.
Signed SS Raffy Belliard to a minor league contract. [12/5]
Nice to see that Raffy didn't miss out on John Schuerholz' recent money-shovelling madness. Its hard to begrudge him the money, because the young alternatives to keeping him around are pretty much gone: Ed Giavanola and Bobby Smith are both gone, so unless you're a Mike Mordecai booster, there isn't much damage done other than the wasted roster spot should Raffy make the Opening Day roster.
Re-signed RHP Scott Kamieniecki to a two-year contract (with club option for '00). [12/5]
Re-signed CF Brady Anderson to a five-year contract. [12/7]
The autocrat intervenes, and the Orioles commit to being an old team. Re-signing Anderson isn't a bad idea in itself, but the money is being shelled out for his big '96 season, which he'll be hard-pressed to ever approach again. The public pettiness involved with Angelos' elimination of Davey Johnson reduced the negotiations to a pricey bit of spin control. With commitments to Mussina, Key, Erickson, and Kamieniecki, the Orioles' rotation is set, which with this group isn't a good thing.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Named Jerry Manuel, previously Florida's bench coach, manager, and signed him to a three-year contract. [12/4]
Waived LHP Doug Creek and sold his contract to Hanshin in the Japanese Leagues. [12/4]
Dumping Creek (as well as Lyle Mouton and Jeff Darwin last week) was the Sox' way of making roster space for the anticipated signing of Charlie O'Brien. I guess its an open question why Creek was dispatched while the team retains Mike Bertotti on the 40-man roster.
Outrighted OF Chad Mottola to Indianapolis, and released 1B Mark Johnson. [12/6]
The Reds make room on their 40-man roster for players with futures. With _Pat Watkins pushing for a roster spot, Mottola isn't likely to ever wind up being more than a fifth OF, and with Dmitri Young and Eduardo Perez holding down first, Johnson gets to join the Kevin Maas road show.
Traded 3B Matt Williams for 3B Travis Fryman, LHP Tom Martin, and $3 million. [12/1]
Exercised the team option for 1998 on the contract of RHP Mike Jackson. [12/1]
Signed RHP Rich Batchelor to a minor league contract. [12/5]
For the Indians, trading Williams dodges the public relations bullet of not re-signing him later, while bringing in Fryman as a one-year stopgap until Hart must make some choices about whether or not to move Thome back to third, or whether Russ Branyan will improve to a Hobsonesque level with the glove. As mentioned before, Fryman hasn't had an OBP above .350 since '93, or a slugging percentage above .440 since '94. Jacobs Field won't be an improvement for him over Tiger Stadium, which is why Hart is busily trying to peddle Fryman. Adding Martin and picking up the option on Jackson give the Indians' pen the depth it needs to support the weak rotation.
Signed 3B Vinny Castilla to a four-year contract extension. [12/2]
Signed RHP Darryl Kile to a three-year contract. [12/4]
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Kile deal was that it wasn't for the currently fashionable five years for a primo starter. The feeling is that three years is long enough to see how well he can do in that environment. Kile had been remarkably effective in preventing extra base hits, even for the Astrodome, and even in his bad years (which all happened during Terry Collins' tenure). He's going to the easiest ball park in the world to poke an XBH. Although he throws hard, his out pitch is his curve, and everyone's convinced breaking stuff doesn't work as well a mile up. Lets call it scientific curiosity, and watch.
Claimed INF Brandon Cromer off of waivers from Pittsburgh; designated INF Alex Arias for assignment. [12/5]
Cromer's a rare combination of skills: a shortstop who hits lefty, and produces a bit of sock by uppercutting everything. He doesn't make contact often enough to play regularly, but the Pirates' losing him on waivers is symptomatic of a roster cluttered with talent. The Marlins get a puny bit of salary-cutting by releasing Arias, and can now devote the utility infielder slot to Abbott, Milliard, or Cromer.
Re-signed 1B/OF J.R. Phillips to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. [12/1]
With the team's addition of Dave Clark, Phillips is committed to playing regularly for New Orleans, where he may lose playing time to the rumored shift of Daryle Ward to the outfield.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Re-signed RHP Hipolito Pichardo to a two-year contract. [12/4]
Hipolito Pichardo is exactly the kind of relief pitcher you don't give $4M plus over two years. His entire career screams "much ado about nothing," but he had a scoreless-innings streak going early in the season to get people all worked up about him. He's been called rubber-armed, but he isn't, and relievers who struggle to put up an ERA better than league average should be thankful for NRIs to spring training.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Signed OF Treni Hubbard to a minor league contract. [12/3]
Treni Hubbard is one of my favorite players, but thats only because I know how happy his reaching the majors made his mother, who in turn was a nurse who took care of me back in '91 during a hospital stay. Compared to options like Otis Nixon or Darren Lewis or Wayne Kirby, Treni Hubbard can help as a fifth OF and pinch-hitter.
Signed C Jayhawk Owens to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. [12/1]
Signed C Chris Turner and INF Esteban Beltre to minor league deals with spring training invitations. [12/5]
Re-signed DH Paul Molitor to a one-year contract. [12/7]
Owens and Turner have been brought in for two different jobs: one will catch regularly in Salt Lake City, and one will back up Terry Steinbach now that Greg Myers and Damian Miller are both gone. Owens started out in the Twins' chain before being a third-round pick by the Rockies in their Expansion Draft. Beltre must wonder where he can get Manny Alexander's chances: their skill sets are almost identical, but one of them is thought of as a potential regular, and one of them is an acknowledged fringe player. The Molitor signing is a fringe "benefit" for the cynical attempt to get a stadium out of the taxpayers that has led to the rumored departure of the franchise to North Carolina. The Twins are staring at a potential lame duck season without any player with Puckett-power at the gate, so they coaxed Molly back for one year and $4M.
Re-signed RHP Dave Telgheder and signed RHP Jim Dougherty and OFs Brad Tyler and Jack Voigt to minor league contract with spring training invites; sold RHP Mark Acre to Yakult in the Japanese Leagues. [12/4]
Signing Dougherty is one of those old connections, in this case between Bob Cluck, Art Howe, and Dougherty from their shared experiences in Houston. Tyler is a fun LH addition for Edmonton's drive to three-peat: he's a secondary skills monster. Voigt is that always-useful lefty-masher who may fit in as a platoon mate for Dave Magadan or Ben Grieve. Even though Telgheder pitched hurt for the team in '97, I for one have had enough of him.
Signed INF Doug Strange to a two-year contract, and re-signed 1B/3B Kevin Young to a two-year contract. [12/1]
Strange creates all sorts of options for the Pirates: he could play second or third, depending on a number of other players: Kevin Young and Ron Wright, Tony Womack and Chad Hermansen, and Fredi Garcia. If anybody wins out at any one position, Strange can be moved to accomodate Young or Garcia at third or Womack and Hermansen at second. Gene Lamont has enjoyed having Craig Grebeck and Dale Sveum to create that sort of flexibility in the past.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Signed INF David Howard to a two-year contract. [12/4]
Signed OF Willie McGee to a one-year contract. [12/5]
Some might gripe inveterately about giving good money to Willie McGee, but he's an entertaining and useful link to Whitey's Cardinal teams. The signing of Howard is simply appalling. Regardless of where you are on the issue of "replacement level" talent and how to define it, its hard to find players worse than David Howard, certainly to the point that giving David Howard a two-year contract is about as outlandish a signing as you could fabricate. He's the epitome of what has happened to the once-great Royals franchise, and I know one Royals fan who won't be missing him...
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Announced the cancellation of their signing of RHP Jose Parra.
Parra apparently signed with a South Korean league without telling his agent.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Re-signed LHP Rich Rodriguez to a two-year contract. [12/7]
Another of the dandy little relievers who Dusty slagged as the season went on, having posted an ERA over 5.50 after the All-Star break after having appeared in 44 of the Giants' first 87 games. Another guy who won't survive that kind of workload.
Signed INF Aaron Holbert to a minor league contract. [12/2]
Not a bad utility infielder to have picked up, considering that people are spending real cash money for David Howard. Holbert has some speed, is a much better shortstop than secondbaseman, and is still young enough to be a useful bench player for several years. Not a candidate to wind up platooning with Joey Cora at second.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Signed LHP Wilson Alvarez to a five-year contract. [12/3]
Signed OF Davey Martinez to a two-year contract (with club option for '00). [12/4]
Does anyone have a good explanation why you would sign Davey Martinez before the White Sox had to decide whether or not to offer him arbitration? Any idea why you'd want to commit to two or three years to a 33 year old corner outfielder who slugs lower than league average? The only justification for this move is if the Rays really will move Quinton McCracken, allowing Martinez to play center. Otherwise, they'll have a AAA lineup that's as good or better than the one in the majors. As for signing Alvarez, the organization has cultivated a relationship with (or has been cultivated by) Scott Boras, and this is one of the "benefits" of that relationship. Whether it winds up as nastily as it always seems to in all things related to Boras and his business dealings will have to be seen.
Signed C Rick Wrona to a minor league contract. [12/1]
Signed RHP Matt Whiteside to a minor league contract. [12/3]
Signed LHP Scott Bailes to a one-year contract. [12/7]
Bailes continues his remarkable comeback journey, getting a guaranteed contract. It seems like a long time since when my roomate was telling me that Andy Allanson and Scotty Bailes were going to be the Indians' battery for the next ten years.