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December 28, 1999

Transaction Analysis

October 30-November 19

by Christina Kahrl

Amidst the chaos of a Prospectus autumn it came, destined to be buried deep on a hard drive, next to the Excel 95 version of a long-forgotten office pool. As with so much lost treasure before it, a long and arduous search was undertaken, a search by men strong of breath and wide of waist.

These men returned heroes, for when hope was nearly gone, when these pearls of wisdom were to be lost to the spinning magnetic surfaces of legend, they came upon the document.

And there was much rejoicing. The Lost TA was found.

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Named Bill Stoneman vice president and general manager. [11/1]

Signed C Steve Decker to a minor-league contract. [11/4]

Named Mike Scioscia manager. [11/18]

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Named Mike Hargrove manager. [11/3]

Signed RHP Mike Trombley to a three-year contract. [11/17]

While Trombley is a good reliever who came quite inexpensively (under $10MM for the whole contract), it continues to raise questions about what the hell the Orioles are doing. Throwing more veteran relievers at the problem--sorry, the bullpen problem--only exacerbates the internal rot, especially when guys like Mike Timlin are still on board for three more years at bigger money. Add to that the Orioles' clear non-contender status in 2000 and you have a lot of Angelosbucks poured down a very big hole.

BOSTON RED SOX

Acquired CF Jermaine Allensworth from the Mets for OF Jon Nunnally. [11/12]

The Sox gave up on the talented but hard-luck Nunnally very quickly, in exchange for a player neither the Pirates nor the Royals had any use for. Allensworth's defense will be wonderful backing up Darren Lewis and Damon Buford, who are also on board for their defense.

CHICAGO CUBS

Named Don Baylor manager. [11/1]

Announced that RHP Rick Aguilera exercised his option to return for 2000. [11/10]

Exercised their option on C Jeff Reed for 2000. [11/11]

Re-signed 3B Shane Andrews to a one-year contract. [11/16]

Re-signed RHP Jon Lieber to a three-year contract. [11/19]

A positive set of minor moves for the Cubs. Lieber is the Cubs' rotation anchor at this point, with Wood coming off major surgery, Trachsel leaving town on a rail, and Tapani looking all but finished, so locking him up for three years as he hits his prime is wise. Aguilera's return bodes well for the beleaguered bullpen, prevents the team from getting all stupid and signing a semi-closer (Arthur Rhodes) to a four-year megadeal, and gives Terry Adams more time to rediscover his control. Andrews should beat Cole Liniak out for the third base job, giving the Cubs their best 3b threat since ... well, since a really long time ago. And while Jeff Reed is hardly a valuable commodity, given the fact that the Cubs are not the type of organization to sign Creighton Gubanich and hand him 300 ABs, Cub fans should look at Reed and simply be glad he's not Sandy Martinez.

Baylor should make an interesting addition to the bunch, but whether that addition will be a net positive is unclear. His one year in Atlanta was a remarkable one, with the twin Joneses both crediting him for their sizable offensive improvements, but whether he can have the same impact as a manager as he had as a hitting coach is questionable. The Cubs could desperately use someone in the player-evaluation chain who understands plate discipline, and Baylor appears to, given his work with Andruw and the generally improved walk totals on the Braves. But Baylor was never an adept handler of pitchers on Planet Coors, and while Wrigley is somewhat closer to earth, it is still a horrible pitchers' park, and Baylor could easily rip through the Cubs' weak pen.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Re-signed C Brook Fordyce to a two-year contract. [11/17]

If major-league teams want to do something to slow salary escalation, they should stop throwing multi-year guaranteed contracts at replacement-level players coming off career years. Fordyce will now be an expensive albatross blocking Mark Johnson, Josh Paul, and a dozen AAA veterans who could do the same job for the major-league minimum.

CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired DH Dante Bichette and cash from the Rockies for OF Jeffrey Hammonds and RHP Stan Belinda. [10/30]

Signed INFs Mike Bell and Chris Sexton and OF Pat Watkins to minor-league contracts. [11/3]

Signed 1B/PH Hal Morris to a one-year contract. [11/4]

Re-signed INF Mark Lewis to a one-year contract; signed RHPs Keith Glauber, Joe Borowski, Bobby Munoz and Larry Luebbers, LHPs Neil Weber, Tom Fordham and Terrell Wade and DH Brooks Kieschnick to minor-league contracts. [11/16]

Acquiring Bichette undoes most of the good done by Bowden in the past year. Sure, he gave up little in the exchange. However, Bichette is signed for Colorado money for three more years, had one of the worst home/road splits of any Rockie hitter, and hasn't drawn a walk since the Carter administration. And he's overweight with cranky knees. And his defense is poor for a DH. And the Reds already had too many outfielders, so we could either see Michael Tucker traded or Dmitri Young screwed (again). There is no positive way to spin this deal for Cincinnati, a team that would have been hard-pressed to repeat its 96 wins with the same lineup.

Bowden did do well to grab a few frequently-injured pitching talents, including Glauber, Weber, Fordham, and Wade, in the hope that one will pan out. Hardly a great bet, but the success of Steve Parris clearly emboldened him, and these moves provide a positive return even if only one out of ten pays off.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Named Charlie Manuel manager. [11/1]

Exercised their 2000 options on C Sandy Alomar and RF Manny Ramirez; declined their 2000 option on RHP Dwight Gooden. [11/2]

Named Jim Riggleman third base coach, Ted Uhlaender baserunning and outfield coach, and Clarence Jones hitting coach. [11/5]

Named Dick Pole pitching coach. [11/10]

COLORADO ROCKIES

Acquired OF Jeffrey Hammonds and RHP Stan Belinda from the Reds for LF Dante Bichette. [10/30]

Re-signed RHP Jerry Dipoto to a two-year contract with a club option for 2002. [11/2]

Acquired RHPs Manny Aybar, Jose Jimenez and Rick Croushore, and INF Brent Butler from the Cardinals for RHPs Darryl Kile, Dave Veres and Luther Hackman. [11/16]

Claimed RHP Julian Tavarez off of waivers from the Giants. [11/16]

Acquired LHP Mike Myers from the Brewers in exchange for RHP Curtis Leskanic. [11/17]

Perhaps new GM Dan O'Dowd is honest to a fault, because he didn't extract much value from Bichette, even though he reportedly had drawn interest from richer teams like the Yankees. Hammonds should poke 30+ homers in Colorado, but will miss 50 games due to injuries and won't help the Rockies' basic offensive impatience. Belinda will implode at that altitude, only to resurface in 2001 with another team and be back to his old self. Much ado about nothing.

Meanwhile, O'Dowd trades two of his three most valuable pitchers and gets back a bunch of enigmatic young pitchers, one of whom (Croushore) has a shredded shoulder, and a once-bright infield prospect who lost the strike zone last year. Hard to see any of those pitchers becoming stars in Denver, which means that the Rockies failed again to help their club.

Finally, they gave away their most competent remaining reliever for a lefty specialist--but when you're as bad as the Rockies, are lefty specialists the first thing on your shopping list?

DETROIT TIGERS

Acquired RF/DH Juan Gonzalez, RHP Danny Patterson and C Greg Zaun from the Rangers for LHPs Justin Thompson and Alan Webb, RHP Francisco Cordero, RF Gabe Kapler, 2B Frank Catalanotto, and C Bill Haselman. [11/2]

Re-signed OF Luis Polonia to a one-year contract with a club option for 2001; claimed 3B Carlos Villalobos on waivers from the Astros. [11/10]

You know by now how poor this trade was for Detroit. If Gonzalez walks, they gave up the farm and got nothing back. If he stays ... well, is that a good thing? He'll soak up at least 20% of their payroll, and doesn't solve their basic offensive problem--getting men on base. In exchange, the Tigers gave away their middle infield depth, an excellent outfield prospect, their best young starter (albeit a hurt one), a potential relief star, and a pretty good backup catcher. The Tigers will now go into 2000 with one improvement in the lineup, a few more holes in the lineup, and a loss of pitching depth. Might give the Twins nightmares.

Polonia's sudden power and sudden size increase notwithstanding, he was awful after a fast start, never walks, and makes Brian Hunter look like a valuable player. Smith clearly has no idea what he's doing.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired RHP Dan Miceli from the Padres for RHP Brian Meadows. [11/16]

Great pickup: a valuable, relatively underpriced middle reliever in exchange for a starting pitcher who was only in the majors because the Marlins were so awful in '98.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Re-signed RHP Antonio Osuna to a one-year contract with club options for 2001 and 2002. Acquired RF Shawn Green and 2b Jorge Nunez from the Blue Jays for OF Raul Mondesi and LHP Pedro Borbon Jr.. [11/2]

Signed PH Dave Hansen to a one-year contract. [11/11]

Acquired 3B Kevin Orie from the Marlins for a player to be named by 4/1/00. [11/12]

Green was immediately signed to an immense contract extension that will keep him in Dodger Blue through 2005. Green is coming off a big season in Toronto, but he's probably at his peak right now and I wouldn't be surprised if he never surpasses what he did last year. That's not what the Dodgers are paying him for. Nevertheless, he should be a solid plus in right for a few years, and getting rid of Raul Mondesi (and his considerable contract and baggage) was undoubtedly a good idea after this year's behavioral hijinks on Raul's part. It's Murdoch's money, not mine.

If the Blue Man Group really believes that Orie will be any sort of replacement for Adrian Beltre, they're drinking too much of their own blue Kool-Aid. Losing Beltre would be the worst blow for a franchise that has lost Mike Piazza, Paul Konerko, and Roger Cedeno in the last twenty-four months, and that has failed to develop any of its considerable pitching prospects into major-league pitchers since Ismael Valdes' emergence in 1995. Fox's likely solution will be to throw tons of money at a 34-year-old free agent third baseman next winter, which will only exacerbate the internal rot that is undermining what was once among the game's top farm systems. Regardless of who's right and wrong in the Beltre claim, the Dodgers should be making every effort to sign Beltre and get him to drop his complaint, because they've let a few too many phenoms get away this decade.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Named Davey Lopes manager, signing him to a three-year contract. [11/4]

Named Bob Apodaca pitching coach, Chris Speier third base coach, Jerry Royster bench coach and Bill Castro bullpen coach. [11/12]

Acquired RHP Curtis Leskanic from the Rockies for LHP Mike Myers. [11/17]

Re-signed RHP Jason Bere to a one-year contract. [11/19]

Leskanic's addition strengthens an Achilles' heel: the bullpen. With Wickman hot, some of these woes were masked last year, but when he inevitably hits another rough patch, they'll be glad to have someone like Leskanic to keep Dave Weathers off the field.

MINNESOTA TWINS

Announced the retirement of C Terry Steinbach. [11/16]

Two years too late, but the Twins didn't have anyone else ready in the meantime. With a bevy of catching prospects in the system, they didn't need him anymore, and he wisely chose to hang 'em up.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Claimed LHP Brent Billingsley off of waivers from the Marlins. [11/19]

NEW YORK METS

Reinstated C Vance Wilson from the 60-day DL. [11/2]

Acquired OF Jon Nunnally from the Red Sox for CF Jermaine Allensworth. [11/12]

Re-signed C Todd Pratt to a two-year contract. [11/18]

Nunnally is a great pickup, but his playing time outlook is quite bleak at the outset unless Darryl Hamilton's trade request is granted. If the Mets learned anything from Roger Cedeno, it should be that price does not equal quality. Re-signing Pratt demonstrates that lesson, and could prove valuable if Piazza moves to first immediately, or if his knees force him there midyear.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Exercised their 2000 options on RF Paul O'Neill and DH Darryl Strawberry; reinstated C Vidal Candelaria from the 60-day DL, and waived him. [11/2]

Sentiment reigns in the Big Apple, but who can blame them? O'Neill has clearly lost a step and a few tenths of a second in his swing, and he probably belongs on the heavy side of a platoon, but that won't happen. If the Yanks get serious about overhauling their infield to bring Johnson, Soriano, and Jimenez in, they'll be able to carry one or two old fogies in the lineup.

With Chili Davis retired, Strawberry will split DH duties with Jim Leyritz. Strawberry's power is intact and he can still draw his share of walks, so at his salary, the option was attractive.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Exercised their 2000 option on RHP Kevin Appier. [11/1]

If Appier has anything left, this would be the year he'd show it, after using 1999 as a sort of rehab assignment. If he can just improve on his '99 season, he'll be a huge part of the team's playoff push.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RHP Carlos Reyes to a one-year contract. [11/5]

Acquired RHP Andy Ashby from the Padres for RHPs Carlton Loewer, Steve Montgomery and Adam Eaton. [11/10]

Claimed RHP Mark Brownson off of waivers from the Rockies. [11/16]

The Phils have finally found religion around their pitching staff: After Schilling and Byrd, it was all downhill. Ashby didn't come cheap--Eaton was the top minor-league pitcher in the system, and Loewer looks like he' ll develop into a good #3/4 starter--but he's one of the majors' top ten RH starters, has been reasonably durable (by today's diminished standards), and should allow Terry Francona to pull back on his overuse of Curt Schilling by further reducing the overall load on the bullpen.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Elected not to exercise their options on LHP Donovan Osborne and OF Darren Bragg. [11/3]

Acquired RHP Pat Hentgen and LHP Paul Spoljaric from the Blue Jays for LHP Lance Painter, RHP Matt DeWitt and C Alberto Castillo. [11/11]

Acquired RHPs Darryl Kile, Dave Veres and Luther Hackman from the Rockies for RHPs Manny Aybar, Jose Jimenez and Rick Croushore and INF Brent Butler. [11/16]

Agreed to exercise a mutual contract option for 2001 with 1B Mark McGwire. [11/18]

Playing to LaRussa/Duncan's collective strength, veteran pitchers, the Cards grabbed a few worthwhile arms for some currently worthless ones with potential. The best arms of the group, Aybar and Jiminez, went to Colorado, where they're unlikely to come back to haunt GM Walt Jocketty or LaRussa or Duncan, so that move was ideal from a PR standpoint. Veres steps in as the closer, a role for which he's been qualified since '95 or so, and pushes Ricky Bottalico and Juan Acevedo into setup roles with Scott Radinsky. Kile is a project, but isn't hurt and has enough raw talent to give Duncan a good chance of success here.

The wild card here is Hentgen. If he's hurt, as most suspect, the gamble won't pay off, and the Cards can simply point out that they gave nothing up in the bargain but Hentgen's salary. If he's not too hurt to post a league-average ERA, the Cards come out ahead. If he manages an above-average season and Kile does the same, the Cards suddenly have a good core to their rotation, one that will keep the back of the bullpen out of games, which is a Good Thing.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Acquired RHPs Carlton Loewer, Steve Montgomery and Adam Eaton from the Phillies for RHP Andy Ashby. [11/10]

Acquired RHP Brian Meadows from the Marlins for RHP Danny Miceli. [11/16]

Hard to believe the Padres couldn't get more for either Ashby or Miceli. When trading a top-flight starter like Ashby, teams would do well to get at least one good hitting prospect in the bargain, because pitching prospects can so easily blow out or simply not perform up to standards, leaving the team with nothing from the deal but egg on its face.

That quibble aside, the Padres did get themselves a good, if not great, pitching prospect in Adam Eaton, and an advanced semi-prospect who should step right into their rotation in Carlton Loewer. Montgomery is a useful replacement for the now-departed Miceli, which, with Trevor Hoffman manning the closer role, is fine.

Trading Miceli for a never-will-be like Brian Meadows seems inexcusable. Demand for quality middle relievers peaks in July, just before the trading deadline, and trading those pitchers in November amounts to leaving value on the table. Miceli has pitched well since arriving in San Diego, throws hard, and keeps the ball in the park better than he did in Pittsburgh. Contenders with weak bullpens (like Cleveland) should have been GM Kevin Towers' main targets.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Named Bryan Price pitching coach, Gerald Perry hitting coach, John Moses first base-outfield coach and Larry Bowa third base-infield coach for 2000; announced the retention of bench coach John McLaren and bullpen coach Matt Sinatro. [11/19]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Rejected the opportunity to exercise their option on DH Paul Sorrento, making him a free agent. [11/1]

Announced the retirement of 3B Wade Boggs, and named him special assistant to GM Chuck LaMar. [11/11]

TEXAS RANGERS

Acquired LHPs Justin Thompson and Alan Webb, RHP Francisco Cordero, RF Gabe Kapler, C Bill Haselman and 2B Frank Catalanotto from the Tigers for RF/DH Juan Gonzalez, RHP Danny Patterson and C Greg Zaun. [11/2]

Claimed RHP Brian Sikorski on waivers from the Astros. [11/9]

A tremendous masterstroke for the Rangers, who rid themselves of an overpriced, overvalued headache in Gonzalez, and made significant headway in rebuilding the team without compromising its short-term competitiveness. True, the offense may suffer slightly with Kapler/Catalanotto replacing Gonzalez/McLemore, but by 2001, the former duo will outperform the latter, especially once you consider defense. The Rangers also obtained the Wetteland insurance they lacked last year and now can take a flyer on fragile Justin Thompson's arm.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Acquired OF Raul Mondesi and LHP Pedro Borbon Jr. from the Dodgers for RF Shawn Green and 2B Jorge Nunez. [11/2]

Acquired LHP Lance Painter, RHP Matt DeWitt, and C Alberto Castillo from the Cardinals for RHP Pat Hentgen and LHP Paul Spoljaric. [11/11]

Released C Mike Matheny. [11/17]

This looks a lot like a front office telling itself that if it can't resign a player, it needs to get something for him and it needs to get something for him now, without reminding itself that the returns for a competent team letting a Type A free agent walk are considerable. True, Mondesi's contract isn't quite as exorbitant as it was when he put his chop on it, but he's still a very expensive player--quite a bit more expensive, even, than the signing bonuses for those compensatory draft picks would have been.

Of course, the Jays were thisclose to winning it all last year, and still have the nucleus in place, so they had to get a power hitter to replace Green. Or something.

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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