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January 5, 1998

Transaction Analysis

December 19-January 4

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed DH/1B Cecil Fielder to a one-year contract. [12/19]

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Angels were confronted with a very similar choice after the 1990 season, when they let Brian Downing walk away to bring in Dave Parker to DH. Fielder's a better player now than Parker was then, but that doesn't make this a good decision, and it badly hurts the Halos at the top of the order while putting both Fielder and Garrett Anderson in the middle of the lineup. If Todd Greene gets stuck batting seventh behind those two, he'll have a hard time driving in sixty runs.

Declined to offer a contract to UT Tony Phillips; signed PH Chip Hale to a minor league contract. [12/22]

Signed 1B Troy Neel to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/30]

Re-signed minor league free agents 2B/SS Fausto Cruz, LHP Robert Gamez, C Jose Monzon, C/UT Chris Norton, and signed minor league free agents RHPs Mo Sanford, Lou Pote, and Darryl Scott, LHP Jeff Huber, and UT Tom Nevers.

After poking 25 taters in Japan in '97, Neel isn't really a great DH/1B option when someone like Bob Hamelin is freely available; like alot of people, he's more useful than Cecil Fielder will be. Neel may simply be asked to take over Jack Howell's pinch-hitting role to start off, but when Fielder's struggles get ugly, he could start claiming expanded playing time.

In case you couldn't guess, the rest of this crowd are filler for Vancouver.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Named Dwayne Murphy firstbase and outfield coach. [12/22]

Named Jim Presley hitting coach. [12/23]

Now there's a couple of trips down memory lane... somehow, I don't think Murph is going to help Devo discover the fountain of youth.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Re-signed DH Harold Baines to a one-year contract; designated 3B Willie Otanez for assignment. [12/19]

Declined to offer contracts to OF/DH Geronimo Berroa and 3B Willie Otanez. [12/22]

Although Otanez is hardly a special talent, what does Ed Sprague or Mike Blowers have that he doesn't? Like Scott McClain, somebody the organization should have considered rather than moving Ripken to third to sign Mike Bordick. Berroa has to be asking himself the same sorts of questions, since there's essentially no chance that Joe Carter will outhit Berroa in a major league uniform for the rest of their adult lives, certainly not to the extent that Carter is somehow considered worthy of a $3.3M contract. In this specific instance, Gillick has let a sensible approach (avoid big arbitration payouts) be dictated by an unfortunate passion for JC.

BOSTON RED SOX

Named Dick Pole bullpen coach. [12/19]

Signed CF Darren Lewis to a one-year contract with club option for 1999. [12/23]

Lewis is still a better player than Damon Buford. Now where did Aaron Sele get to, anyways? Not one of Duquette's better moves, even if cornering the market on people who can't beat Darren Bragg for a job is for some reason an organizational imperative. Pole has gotten good marks for his work with pitchers in Chicago and San Francisco, but was axed by the Giants to make room for Ron Perranoski.

CHICAGO CUBS

Declined to offer a contract to RHP Kent Bottenfield. [12/19]

Traded CF Doug Glanville to Philadelphia for 2B Mickey Morandini. [12/23]

Sure, it looks like the Phillies were ripped off: Morandini is coming off of a year where he hit .295/.371/.380, but that was his best year since '94, he's 32, and there are questions about his range afield. Losing Glanville is nothing to be sorry about, obviously, and the Cubs have themselves a viable fill-in at second until Elinton Jasco or Chad Meyers are ready. Releasing Bottenfield is a good decision: he was a disaster after the All-Star break, and his eligibility for arbitration meant that the Cubs were in danger of overpaying for a useful middle reliever. In all of the ongoing comments that involve "why don't players stick with their teams," keep in mind that an economic engine like arbitration creates that "phenomenon" just as much as free agency.

Signed OF Matt Mieske to a one-year contract. [12/29]

In Milwaukee, Mieske struggled, endured an injury or two, and Phil Garner and Sal Bando finally gave up on him. No tears are being shed over his departure, but the expectation that he was the central player in the Sheffield deal, and a big year in the California League led to unrealistic expectations. In Wrigley, he'll make a dandy platoon mate for Hank Rodriguez, in a similar fashion as Brian Dayett or Lloyd McClendon. Unfortunately, Hank isn't as good as Jerry Mumphrey or Dwight Smith...

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Acquired SS Benji Gil from Texas for RHP Al Levine and LHP Larry Thomas; designated INF/PH Norberto Martin for assignment. [12/19]

Swapping Karkovice/Fabregas and Guillen for O'Brien/Kreuter and Gil is your basic good short-term upgrades, both offensively and defensively, with the team anticipating the eventual breakthroughs of Josh Paul or Mark Johnson at catcher and Jason Dellaero or Mike Caruso at short. O'Brien/Kreuter and Gil will be asked to assume the eighth and ninth slots in the order, and the organization won't miss Levine or Thomas. I guess we all knew that Paco Martin would be one of the first guys to suffer from Terry Bevington's firing, although this was also a case of the team ducking salary arbitration after finding the player's demands were a bit rich for a backbencher.

CINCINNATI REDS

Signed RHP David Weathers; declined to offer contracts to LHP Joey Eischen and OF Steve Gibralter. [12/21]

Signed LHP Steve Cooke to a one-year contract. [12/22]

Re-signed OF Mel Nieves to a one-year contract. [12/24]

Cooke was cut by the Pirates to avoid salary arbitration, and Jim Bowden was canny enough to get him quickly. There are still questions about his health, and he wore down badly in the second half last year, but in the Reds' situation, he's a good risk. I have no use for David Weathers, but he is the sort of pitcher you pick up when the bottom two slots in your rotation are so wide open that everyone from Burlington on up is a hot spring away from a major league job.

Signed RHPs Toby Borland, Ramon Fermin, and Daron Kirkreit, and LHP Ricardo Jordan to minor league contracts.

More bargain shopping from Jim Bowden. Borland and Jordan are the most likely to surface as serviceable middlemen in the Reds' pen, while Kirkreit, and ex-first rounder and '92 Olympian, is still strying to put together his career after blowing out his rotator cuff.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHPs Marcus Moore and Ben Blomdahl and INF Torey Lovullo to minor league contracts. [12/19]

Stocking Buffalo.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Signed INF Nelson Liriano and OF Sherman Obando to minor league contracts. [12/19]

Signed 1B Greg Colbrunn to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/23]

The nice thing to say here is that Colbrunn is useful insurance for Todd Helton in case Helton falls flat on his face or needs to be platooned. The ugly possibility is that Colbrunn could wind up a zillionaire Big Cat-style, since all he or any stick-bearing biped needs is regular playing time in Coors. Colbrunn's track record as a hitter in recent years is certainly better-looking than Galarraga's was in his last few pre-Denver seasons... Obando has the chance to be recognized as a game-breaking pinch hitter: when healthy, he has a good power stroke.

Re-signed LHP Bruce Ruffin to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/2]

I for one hope Bruce Ruffin either meets up with a fine ghost writer and tells us his life story, and/or becomes a pitching coach. His epic struggles in Philly, surviving a brush with Phil Garner in his slag-happy days, and his first big comeback a mile up all make for a potentially good story. It won't be easy to come back again. Baylor tends to have only one kind of workload for his pen: frequent, short outings. Usually, that doesn't translate into a good usage pattern for a guy trying to put his arm and his career back together again, and Ruffin has never been effective as a strict lefty-getter.

DETROIT TIGERS

Signed Cs Joe Oliver and Joe Siddall, Ps Denny Harriger, Marino Santana, Bill Hurst, LHP Pedro Martinez, and OF Andy Tomberlin to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/22]

The surprise here is that the Tigers brought in Oliver, who could push Papo Casanova to the bench while shoving Marcus Jensen to Toledo.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired RHP Eric Ludwick from Oakland for INF Kurt Abbott. [12/19]

Signed C Randy Knorr to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/22]

No sooner do the Fish take heat for the Brown trade than they magically procure a dandy rotation starter out of thin air for a utility infielder. Ludwick could be a Dustin Hermanson-sized surprise this year. Knorr is insurance for if/when the Marlins finally do deal Greg Zaun; otherwise, he'll have a banner year in cozy Charlotte.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Declined to offer contracts to CF Chuck Carr and 3B Sean Berry. [12/19]

Traded RHP John Hudek to the Mets for OF Carl Everett. [12/22]

Signed C Marc Ronan, OFs Rob Butler and Dax Jones, LHP Bob MacDonald, and RHP Bob Scanlan to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/22]

Releasing both Carr and Berry are pretty good moves: Berry isn't worth what he'd win in arbitration, and the move cements roles on the major league roster for Richard Hidalgo as the starting CF and Russ Johnson as a part-timer at short and third (behind Billy Spiers). Picking up Everett as the fourth OF in exchange for Hudek is a good trade, if a bit of a gamble. After trading Henriquez and Barrios to Florida, the Astros are thin in bullpen help above AA, which explains the signings of MacDonald and Scanlan.

Signed RHP Roger Salkeld and LHP Roberto Rivera to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/29]

Signed RHP Bryan Harvey to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/30]

Although the Astros shelled out "big" money for Doug Henry, the organization seems to have adopted a strategy we've been speaking out in favor of for years: you can get all sorts of pitchers to succeed as major league relievers, and you don't need to hold on to them because there are always more. Last year, it worked with Russ Springer, Tom Martin, and Mike Magnante, all of whom have been waiver fodder before, and all of whom are now considered valuable, somewhat akin to John Hudek, but better. In the case of this trio, Harvey, Salkeld, and Rivera are all damaged goods: Salkeld was slagged in the Mariners' chain, and hasn't been right since; Harvey is still trying to get his career back; and Rivera missed most of '96 and all of '97. All of them could pitch when they were healthy, and between the Astrodome and a manager who isn't wed to strict LaRussian usage patterns, any healthy stretch is going to lead to a good comeback season.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed 1B Hal Morris and SS Orlando Miller to one-year contracts. [12/22]

If Herk Robinson were intentionally trying to make the team worse, he'd be hard-pressed to do it. It would be hard to find a team with a worse starting group at first (King), DH (Morris), and short (Miller). Whereas some commentators are decrying what Dave Dombrowski has done in Florida, Herk Robinson's offseason has been devoted to spending money while failing to help the team in any respect. If anything, the Royals need some "small market" fiscal responsibility to help them put a better team on the field.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed LHP Mike Myers to a two-year contract. [12/19]

Myers hits the jackpot, as the Brewers shed some more cash in anticipation of NL-crazed ticket sales. He's a useful if uninspiring LH setup man on a team lacking one.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Signed 2B Brent Gates to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI; outrighted the contract of 1B Scott Stahoviak to Salt Lake City; invited Stahoviak, Cs Matt LeCroy, Jayhawk Owens, and Chris Turner, LHP Travis Baptist, RHP Shane Bowers, SS/P? Esteban Beltre, 2B Ryan Lane, UT Jon Shave, OF Keith Legree, and 1B/OF Jamie Ogden to spring training. [12/23]

Signing University of Minnesota star Gates could be considered another sign that Chuck Knoblauch is gone. I'm sad to see Stahoviak go, not because I think he's ever going to be a good regular 1B, but because I've enjoyed watching him since his glory days at Creighton. Esteban Beltre has apparently been converted to pitching, where he's got a fastball that hits over 90, but how much he can actually pitch is unknown.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Hired Salomon Torres as a scout and minor league pitching coach.

More than anything, this is just here to let you know his active career appears over.

NEW YORK METS

Signed LHP Brian Bohanon to a one-year contract; signed UT Shawn Gilbert and RHPs Rick Trlicek and Derek Aucoin to minor league contracts. [12/19]

Signed SS Luis Lopez and C Todd Pratt to one-year contracts. [12/20]

Traded OF Carl Everett to Houston for RHP John Hudek. [12/22]

Signed 3B Craig Paquette to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/23]

Signed UT Jim Tatum to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/26]

Paquette came to the right team, in that moving Ed Alfonzo to short to get Paquette's bat in the lineup makes perfect sense when the alternative is the execrable Ordonez. Of course, there are four dozen better alternatives to Craig Paquette, but that's another kettle of fish.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed LHP Graeme Lloyd to a two-year contract and DH Tim Raines to a one-year contract. [12/19]

Signed RHP Darren Holmes to a three-year contract. [12/22]

There's been some harsh criticism of the Holmes signing, because he's coming off of his worst year and he's going to be 32. However, he's also coming off of Planet Coors, and his nastiest stuff is his hard-breaking curve. Since one line of thinking has it that breaking stuff is most affected by the altitude, it should make for an interesting experiment to see how much better Holmes pitches at sea level over a full season. If he succeeds, we've learned something, and if he fails, its George Steinbrenner's money.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Traded RHP Eric Ludwick to Florida for INF Kurt Abbott; signed LHP Buddy Groom, RHP Billy Taylor, and SS Raffy Bournigal to one-year contracts. [12/19]

Signed Cs Damon Berryhill and Izzy Molina to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/22]

Signed OF Shane Mack to a one-year contract. [12/24]

Let me get this straight: the A's got the best years of Kerwin Moore's life (or did we miss those?), and Kurt Abbott's waning years for the rest of Eric Ludwick's career? With the added bonus of three years given to Mike Bordick to play everyday? And the up side of all of this is... ? Signing Mack can either be interpreted as a nice gesture on what's shaping up to be a veteran-heavy bench (with Blowers and Magadan), or a roster that would make the Angels jealous of liver spots in green and gold.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Traded 2B Mickey Morandini to the Cubs for CF Doug Glanville. [12/23]

Signed INF Mark Lewis to a one-year contract. [12/23]

Signed INF Alex Arias to a one-year contract. [12/26]

The best way to put this is that the Phillies dumped salary without hurting the team. Morandini isn't a good bet to be an effective player for years to come, and as unlikely as Glanville is to hit well, he is a good defensive centerfielder. Certainly, Mark Lewis will be more than adequate in replacing Morandini, although he (or Arias) could also see considerable time at short with Rex Hudler (or Arias) at second, when it turns out that Desi Relaford is not going to be much better than Steve Jeltz and Marlon Anderson shows he's not even Phillie quality (much less major league quality) at the position.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Designated 2B Roberto Mejia for assignment.

It seems appropriate that the organization that teased and baited people with Geronimo Pena for years had to acquire and eventually give up on Mejia as well.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed P Masashi Kiyono to a minor league contract. [12/22]

Signed RHP Steve Reed to one-year contract with a club option for 1999. [12/24]

The Rockies blundered in letting Reed walk, and he should be an outstanding setup man for Robb Nen. Assuming Dusty doesn't wear him out by July, like he did with the rest of his pen in '97, of course.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed 2B Jeff Berblinger and SS Rico Rossy to minor league contracts.

Both worthwhile pickups, since each might win the utility infield job with the Mariners, since Sheets and Gates are gone, and Jeff Huson isn't much competition.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed LHP Scott Aldred, RHPs Dave Eiland, Daniel Garbay, and Scott Lewis, C Tim Laker, and OFs Alex Cabrera and Matias Carrillo to minor league contracts. [12/19]

The Rays stock their AAA affiliate, although Lewis has an opportunity to pitch in middle relief for the big league squad.

Designated LHP Ryan Karp for assignment.

Perhaps the quintessential summation of how the D-Rays ran their draft, in that they're already letting their picks go. Karp is still very capable of surprising people as a LH reliever.

TEXAS RANGERS

Traded SS Benji Gil to Chicago for RHP Alan Levine and LHP Larry Thomas. [12/19]

Re-signed C Bill Haselman to a one-year contract; declined to offer contracts to RHPs Roger Pavlik and Wilson Heredia. [12/20]

Signed 3B Tom Quinlan and OF Joe Hall to minor league contracts. [12/22]

Signed RHP Roger Pavlik to a one-year contract and 3B Scott Cooper to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/23]

The Rangers got frustrated with Gil, and gave him up for two pedestrian relievers/failed prospects from the Sox. Both Levine and Thomas are failed starters with big assortments for straight relievers. Both could be useful, but thats pretty paltry compared to the hopes the organization once had for Benji. Quinlan and Cooper are both insurance should anything happen to Fernando Tatis, but they (and Joe Hall) should be exactly the kind of minor league veterans that 89ers fans have learned to expect year after year.

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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