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December 29, 1999

Transaction Analysis

December 17-27

by Christina Kahrl

Looking for the Lost Transaction Analysis? Click here.


Non-tendered INF Andy Sheets, making him a free agent. [12/20]

Sheets went from being a very useful utility infielder for the Padres to a completely worthless regular for the Angels, with the added upset that getting him to replace Gary DiSarcina last spring cost the Angels Phil Nevin. The punchline is that among his other faults, Bill Bavasi didn't do a good job of shopping for minor league free agents last winter, and it ended up costing him talent as well as games. Now Sheets is gone, and the Angels don't have a draft pick, a winning season, or Phil Nevin.


Acquired 1B Wally Joyner, 2B Quilvio Veras, and OF Reggie Sanders from the Padres for 1B/LF Ryan Klesko, 2B Brett Boone, and RHP Jason Shiell. [12/22]

Another one of John Schuerholz' bold strokes that end up making more noise than really big qualitative improvements to the team. Joyner's done, but on some level represents experienced insurance if the Big Cat doesn't come back from cancer quickly. I'd rather take my chances with minor league free agents or Randall Simon. We've come to a point with Quilvio Veras where you just have to acknowledge he's never managed to top his 1995 season, and his constant injuries make it unlikely that he ever will. He'll be an upgrade at the top of the order, and while he's clearly more valuable than Fernando Vina will be to the Cardinals, he's about to win big in arbitration. Reggie Sanders is a nice addition, in that he's extremely inexpensive for a player as productive as he's been, and he's only under contract for one year. As injury-prone as he consistently is, he's a cheap gamble for that one year. The biggest positive of this deal for the Braves is that Klesko's expensive contract for 2001 goes away, making this a future-oriented salary dump. Joyner and Sanders will both be free agents after this season, giving the Braves the freedom to shop without budget concerns in the 2000 free agent market. The talent in this deal is secondary to that, although there is the added bonus that it helps the Braves' shot at a decisive win in the NL East, what with the Mets blowing it so badly this winter.

Bobby Cox is now in the odd situation where he might worry about having too many right-handed bats in his lineup now that all three outfielders, Javy Lopez, and the Big Cat all thump from the right side of the plate, with only Chipper Jones on the left side capable of hitting the ball over the infield. That may end up creating a good opportunity for George Lombard to get a good 300 at-bats off the bench as the team's fourth outfielder.


Re-signed free agent 1B Jeff Conine to a two-year contract. [12/16]

Signed free agent C Greg Myers to a two-year contract. [12/17]

Signed free agent LHP Buddy Groom to a two-year contract; non-tendered OF Wady Almonte and LHP Doug Johns, making them free agents. [12/21]

Named Syd Thrift VP of baseball operations. [12/22]

The only serious question here is whether or not de facto GM/fall guy Syd Thrift wants to take credit for these neato two-year deals for three guys who will make almost no difference in the senselessly violent fight for third place in the AL East. Spending good money for Conine on top of Will Clark and Harold Baines? Why not cut Cal Pickering outright while you're at it? Paying top dollar for Buddy Groom, as sturdy a left-handed piece of waiver fodder as you're going to find? As an American taxpayer, I'd like to find a better way to redistribute Peter Angelos' wealth than this sort of silly trickle-down economics, where Angelos dollars only end up supporting valuable service industry sectors that cater to mediocre ballplayers, like investment planners, trophy wives, or gardeners. There's got to be a better way, no?


Non-tendered C Shea Hillenbrand, DH Butch Huskey, and RHP Julio Santana, making them free agents. [12/21]

Signed free agent LHP Jeff Fassero to a one-year contract. [12/22]

Signed LHP Sang-Hoon Lee to a two-year contract. [12/23]

The Duke brings in a pair of lefties, both of whom should swipe rotation spots. The interesting development here is that Fassero gets reunited with widely acclaimed pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. If the Duke's gamble works, and Fassero really only has mechanical problems that Kerrigan can iron out, the Red Sox have a nifty left-handed starter capable of more than Pete Schourek or Kent Mercker, while Fassero gets a shot at a much more lucrative free agency next winter. Lee was widely considered to be the best lefty starter in the Korean pro league, and he's been signed to walk right into the rotation spots previously occupied by Pat Rapp and/or Mark Portugal. All in all, a nice pair of gambles.


Sent RHP Brian Stephenson to the Dodgers to complete the Valdes/Young salary dump. [12/16]

Signed RHP Andy Larkin to a minor-league contract; purchased the contract of OF Brian Ralph from the Schaumburg Flyers of the Northern League. [12/17]

Signed free agent SS Ricky Gutierrez to a two-year contract; agreed to terms on one-year contracts with RHP Kerry Wood and C Pat Cline; non-tendered RHP Scott Sanders, making him a free agent. [12/20]

Traded LHP Dan Serafini to the Padres for OF Brandon Pernell. [12/22]

Adding Gutierrez for big money illustrates the same old problem in Wrigleyville: this winter is "Operation Butt-Cover" Part II, with Ed Lynch spending money on veteran players as fall guys, so that when 2000 ends up resembling 1999, he can point to his busy work this winter as proof that at least he was doing his job. Gutierrez has a career .335 OBP. On top of the equally anemic additions of Damon Buford and Joe Girardi, these moves represent a fundamental lack of understanding of how runs score, or how to improve on an offense that finished 13th in the league despite playing in a bandbox. Lynch and Baylor are busy blabbing about how they're bringing in a winning attitude and will play agressive, tough, fundamental baseball. Like a presidential campaign that yammers about law and order, this kind of tough talk reflects the absence of any real thinking. The players the Cubs think of as their good offensive players (Eric Young or Mark Grace) aren't especially good compared to other leadoff hitters or middle of the order hitters around the league. The last time the Cubs finished last in the league in scoring was 1949, but this year's Cubs isn't too far from being the league's worst offensive team. It'll be hard to score fewer runs than the Padres or Marlins, but this squad could have the right stuff.


Signed free agent LHP Chuck Finley to a three-year contract. [12/16]

Non-tendered C/UT Tyler Houston, making him a free agent. [12/21]

Signed DH Ruben Sierra, INF Bill Selby, RHPs Jim Dedrick and Jose Pett and LHP Joey Eischen to minor-league contracts; invited Sierra and Selby to spring training. [12/23]

There's a bone of contention here in the BP camp: is John Hart good at his job or not? I'm in the minority that thinks Hart's flushing far too much talent and money on experienced pitching, vainly overcompensating for postseason defeats already lost while not even bringing in the kinds of pitchers who actually do the Indians much good. Spending big money to sign Cuban mystery Danys Baez, Scott Kamieniecki, international man of hittability, and now Chuck Finley might add up to a big financial commitment to the concept of quality pitching, not a guarantee that they'll get any.

Signing a 37 year-old pitcher like Finley when it might mean losing Manny Ramirez after 2000 seems like a really lousy risk. Sure, Ramirez is likely to get more than he's worth as a free agent after already giving the Indians the best years of his career, but if the Indians have as much trouble winning the AL Central in 2000 as I suspect, they'll be stuck with an old Ramirez-less team with major salary commitments to old and declining players. What's really pathetic is that Sierra, the original Bad Bald One, will probably inherit Wil Cordero's roster spot, and get touted for a successful comeback for a few ribbies batting behind good players. He's still as done as he was five years ago.


Signed free agent C Scott Servais to a minor-league contract. [12/17]

While Dan O'Dowd has done a few smart things as the Rockies' GM, spending more than Brian Sabean did to bring in a replacement-level pair of free agent catchers like Servais and Brent Mayne isn't among them. Bringing them in with Ben Petrick just about ready is downright silly. Even if the goal is to contend in the West right now, which is a realistic goal, the Rox don't need Mayne and Servais to do it, but they could use the money to spend on somebody to play short and hit major league pitching.


Signed LHP Jim Poole, RHPs Bart Evans and Douglas Walls and INFs Giomar Guevara, Marty Malloy and Kevin Polcovich to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/20]

A decent collection of guys to bring in: with C.J. Nitkowski likely to make the rotation, Poole has a very solid shot at winning a job in the Tigers' pen, and now that Frank Catalanotto's been traded and Jason Wood's left as a minor league free agent, any one of the infielders could end up as the Tigers' utility infielder. Malloy's got the best chance, but Phil Garner's taste will dictate who wins.


Signed OF Danny Bautista to a one-year contract with a club option for 2001. [12/21]

Signed RHP Ricky Bones to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/22]

Maybe it's just me, but there's something wrong when a 64-win team decides to hand out job security to its fifth outfielder. The Marlins' outfield is already set with Preston Wilson in center, Mark Kotsay in right, and Cliff Floyd in left. God only knows why Brant Brown had to be dragged in. Bautista's not a bad player on a team that needs a defensive replacement, but the Marlins already have a solid bunch of gloves and a lousy offense, and Bautista doesn't help there. The guy most likely to bull his way into the outfield picture is Julio Ramirez, and he's a better player than Bautista. If Dombrowski is doing this just to avoid salary arbitration in the hope that Bautista's contract security might interest one of the more dopey pseudo-contenders, that's pretty weak. They were better off keeping Aven, non-tendering Bautista, and sparing themselves from Brant Brown. That this all comes the year after trading too much to bring in Mike Lowell doesn't do much for Dombrowski's reputation as one of the game's better GMs.


Extended the contracts of manager Larry Dierker and GM Gerry Hunsicker through 2002. [12/16]

Signed free agent INF Tripp Cromer to a minor-league contract. [12/21] Acquired OF Roger Cedeno, RHP Octavio Dotel and LHP Kyle Kessel from the Mets for LHP Mike Hampton and RF Derek Bell. [12/23]

Some people, let's call them Chicago and St. Louis sportswriters, are crowing that this deal signals that the Astros are ripe for the taking. Both camps are missing the boat; what this deal signals is how daring as well as clever Hunsicker, Dierker, and assistant GM Tim Purpura are.

First off, the Astros get rid of Bell, not merely the game's most overrated outfielder, but one of the worst-hitting outfielders in baseball. This ends up creating more of an opportunity for either Daryle Ward or Lance Berkman to get some serious playing time in either outfield corner. Second, the Astros get themselves what should be the best two or three years of Roger Cedeno's career. Cedeno should pair up well with Craig Biggio to form the NL's best one-two punch at the top of the order, and it won't matter which one Dierker leads off. Cedeno also gives Dierker an alternative to Ricky Hidalgo in center, making it all the more likely that the Astros can build a great four-outfielder rotation with the two of them, Moises Alou, and the winner of the Berkman versus Ward fight in one of the corner jobs.

They lose one year of Mike Hampton before he becomes a free agent, which hurts, but the Astros have pitching coming up, the outstanding combo of Dierker and pitching coach Vern Ruhle to work with whoever they bring in, and any rotation featuring Dotel and Scott Elarton has the most promising future of any in baseball. And it isn't like this year's rotation will suck when it starts off with Shane Reynolds and Jose Lima. In short, while the Astros are taking a risk, it's one easily worth taking. They may drop into the high eighty- or low ninety-win range, but the Cardinals will need everything to break their way to even get that high, and the Reds won't match 1999. So not only should the Astros continue to be the favorites in the NL Central, with a rotation that should feature Dotel and Elarton for the next four or five years, they might be the favorites until 2004. At least.


Signed LHP Jose Rosado to a two-year contract. [12/16]

A sensible choice for the Royals at this point, although you have to hope Rosado sent a thank-you note to Tony Muser for getting him this far after Muser helped recover a career for him after Bob Boone's overuse.


Acquired RHP Brian Stephenson from the Cubs to complete the Young/Valdes salary dump. [12/16]

Signed free agent RHP Orel Hershiser to a one-year contract with a club option for 2001. [12/17]

Bringing in Hershiser makes for a feel-good story for a team desperately needing whatever positive spin it can generate for itself. GM Kevin Malone can take greater satisfaction that nobody else in the division is significantly upgrading their teams either.


Signed free agent INF Jose Hernandez to a three-year contract; designated RHP Carl Dale for assignment. [12/16]

Traded 2B Fernando Vina to the Cardinals for RHP Juan Acevedo and two minor league PTBNL; non-tendered RHPs Carl Dale and Hector Ramirez, making them free agents. [12/20]

Signed RHP Jimmy Haynes to a one-year contract. [12/21]

Bringing in Hernandez might make sense if the Brewers wanted him to play a lot of short, or wanted to trade Marquis Grissom so that Jose Valentin could move to center, but instead its a simple case of plugging him into third, keeping Mark Loretta in a utility role or Valentin as trade bait. The too-little, too-late move is Dean Taylor's dumping Vina a year after Sal Bando should have done it. Acevedo should get every opportunity to crack the Brewers' rotation, which means they've got Steve Woodard, Kyle Peterson, Jamey Wright, Jimmy Haynes, and a dogfight between Acevedo, Jason Bere, Rocky Coppinger, and possibly rookie Allen Levrault or a rehabbing Jeff D'Amico for the fifth spot. The bad news? Why did Taylor hand Bere a guaranteed $800 grand, when he may not be good enough to pitch in Triple A?


Agreed to terms on one-year contracts with OF Matt Lawton, 1B Mario Valdez and LHP Johan Santana. [12/20]

Extended spring training invites to RHPs Rich Batchelor, Gus Gandarillas and Ricky Greene, LHP Todd Rizzo, Cs Matt LeCroy, Jon Schaeffer and Jeff Smith, 2B Dan Cey, 3B Michael Cuddyer, INF Jason Maxwell, 3B Brian Richardson and OFs Bobby Kielty, Michael Restovich and Robin Jennings. [12/21]

No really big news here, except that LeCroy will get every opportunity to win the starting catcher job now that Steinbach is retired, and Valdez should get every opportunity to make Doug Mientkiewicz go away. Batchelor and Greene should both get shots to make the bullpen now that Mike Trombley's gone, and either of Maxwell or Cey could get the opportunity to work their way into a platoon role with Todd Walker at second. Cuddyer doesn't have a shot to win the third base job out of camp, but that doesn't mean he won't be up before September.


Signed free agent LHP Graeme Lloyd to a three-year contract; non-tendered RHP Dan Smith, making him a free agent. [12/20]

Acquired RHP Hideki Irabu from the Yankees for RHP Jake Westbrook and two PTBNL; signed Irabu to a two-year contract. [12/22]

NTS = New Toy Syndrome. Jeff Loria's doing this contract and whiz-bang-zoom thing to the hilt, and it plays well for a Montreal crowd usually spending this time of year chatting about whether the Bon Homme de Neige is real or not.

Bringing in Irabu isn't a bad move, but Lloyd's acquisition seems strange unless the Expos deal either of Uggie Urbina or Steve Kline. A nice bullpen is a good thing to have, but it isn't going to compensate for the real problem: why are the Expos making moves to add pitching? They have guys on the way up, starting with Antonio Armas, and others poised to break through, like Carl Pavano or Javy Vazquez or even Scott Strickland. What they don't have is a good offense, and if they really want to embarass the Mets and Phillies this year (a very tangible goal), they need to help their lineup instead of collecting people who can pitch better than GM Jim Beattie did.


Non-tendered RHP Billy Taylor, making him a free agent. [12/20]

Acquired LHP Mike Hampton and RF Derek Bell from the Astros for RHPs Octavio Dotel and Kyle Kessel and OF Roger Cedeno. [12/23]

From Griffey to Manny Ramirez to... a year of Mike Hampton and one of the game's worst-hitting lead-gloved corner outfield stiffs? Talk about settling.

The Mets lost John Olerud, and downgraded to Todd Zeile. They just pitched a good outfielder and their best pitching prospect for a guy leaving behind great run support and the Astrodome, and an outfielder who will do plenty to rehabilitate Bobby Bonilla's Big Apple reputation. While provincial braggadaccio is saying this move skyrockets the Mets past the Braves, their offense has taken several hits, their pitching isn't appreciably better, and they just fired off one of their last bullets for in-season improvement to bring in two free agents to be. The farm is running on empty. It won't be easy for them to finish second, let alone have a good shot at the wild card. The most you can say for their future is that they can use the 2001 draft picks Hampton and Bell will turn into in eleven months.


Signed C Jim Leyritz to a one-year contract. [12/20]

Acquired RHP Jake Westbrook and two PTBNL from the Expos for RHP Hideki Irabu. [12/22]

The interesting thing about trading His Wartiness is that it means they're "stuck" with Andy Pettite as their fourth starter and Ed Yarnall as their fifth starter. Boy, don't they miss Mike Lowell, eh?

Westbrook's an interesting prospect: he hasn't translated talent into results, but there are still things to like about his stuff, and he could be one of those pitchers scouts are right about after all. The two PTBNLs are supposed to be pitchers as well, as if the Yankees even need them.


Non-tendered OF Rich Becker and 2B/3B Scott Spiezio, making them free agents. [12/20]

Both players ended up being victims of their arbitration eligibility, since neither of them have great shots at regular playing time. Both have value, but not as much as an arbitrator is likely to give them. Stranger yet, both may end up in Chicago. Becker would make a nifty leadoff man and part-time CF for the Cubs, and Spiezio might be the Illinois guy the Sox want to take playing time at third until Joe Crede is ready. I'd rather play Greg Norton for his better range and power, even with his overstated "hands of stone" reputation.


Signed Cs Tim Laker and Randy Knorr to minor-league contracts. [12/20]

Non-tendered Rule V pick RHP Brian Smith, making him a free agent, and then signed him to a minor-league deal. [12/21]

Hats off to Cam Bonifay for finding a loophole in the rules that allowed him to snag a Rule V draftee (Smith), and then find a way to keep him off of his own 40-man roster without offering him back to his original team. It will be interesting to see which happens first: either Sandy Alderson takes the time to close off this loophole, or everyone will be doing this in December of 2000.


Signed C Mike Matheny to a one-year contract; designated OF Darren Bragg for assignment. [12/16]

Acquired 2B Fernando Vina from the Brewers for RHP Juan Acevedo and two minor leaguers to be named later. [12/20]

Non-tendered RHP Ricky Bottalico, making him a free agent. [12/21]

This is end stage of delirium tremens, when a drunk is so far gone, so incapable of pulling himself back onto the barstool, that he settles for brake fluid or whatever else he can crawl to. Like picking up Darryl Kile on the expectation that that one good year he had in the last six is what they'll get, the Cardinals are pretending that Fernando Vina is the guy who had one good year (in 1998) in his entire career. He is not going to be the great leadoff man they're pretending he is. He does give them an outstanding infield defense with Tatis at third and Renteria at short, arguably the best in the NL, and they're going to need it. Giving up Acevedo isn't the end of the world, if only because he probably wasn't going to get turned around by LaRussa/Duncan any more than anybody else under thirty.

The really bad news is that Walt Jocketty decided to settle for an even worse alternative (Matheny) to Joe Girardi after Joltless Joe decided to return to the Cubs. To put this in a divisional context, both Girardi and Matheny pale in comparison to both Tony Eusebio and Paul Bako, the Astros' fallbacks in the unlikely event that Mitch Meluskey doesn't hit.


Acquierd 1B/LF Ryan Klesko, 2B Bret Boone, and P Jason Shiell from the Braves for 1B Wally Joyner, 2B Quilvio Veras, and OF Reggie Sanders; acquired LHP Dan Serafini from the Cubs for OF Brandon Pernell. [12/22]

Hmmm, nice things to say... hey, Kevin Towers finally cut the cord to Wally Joyner! Hey, as long as you know you won't be bidding for the free agent class of 2000, why not get guys under contract through 2001? As long as they're gunning for the top pick in the draft, I say its time to dump the wannabe Dodgers uniforms and go back to the brown and mustard outfits.


Non-tendered UT F.P. Santangelo, making him a free agent. [12/21]

Signed GM Brian Sabean to a two-year contract extension. [12/23]

I'm probably not alone in thinking that the Giants are going to do something. Maybe they'll sign Tony Phillips, maybe an expensive free agent, but now that his future is secure, Sabean can continue to take a risk here or there.

The Giants should continue to contend for the division title and/or the wild card, which is what you ought to expect from any team with Barry Bonds. What's more troubling long-term is whether the Giants are satisfied with the status quo: life with 85 or more wins and near-contention. Bonds deserves better.


Signed RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Japanese Leagues to a two-year contract, with a club option for a third year. [12/19]

Signed free agent 2B Mark McLemore and free agent OF Stan Javier to one-year contracts; outrighted the contract of RHP Aaron Scheffer to Tacoma. [12/20]

Signed free agent LHP Arthur Rhodes to a four-year contract; non-tendered SS Rafael Bournigal, 3B Russ Davis and RHP Rafael Carmona, making them free agents. [12/22]

The Mariners continue to accrue little gains. Pat Gillick has talked about how both Rhodes and Sasaki will get chances to share the closer's role with Jose Mesa, but so would Dave Beard if anyone could find him. The key for the Mariners' pen isn't going to be whether or not Piniella is supplied with good arms: he's been given plenty of good relievers to work with. The question is whether or not he'll ever stumble into the same dumb luck that kept him from totally screwing up the 1990 Reds' pen. Since he's managed to bury almost every other pitching staff that's ever been handed to him, my money's on Mt. Piniella and another season of unnatural disasters.

Replacing Russ Davis and Brian Hunter with McLemore and Javier is pretty good news, in that it gives the Mariners two guys whose core strengths are getting on base, and with Griffey, Edgar, and A-Rod coming up behind them, the Mariners have a shot at an adequate offense. The ingredients are in place for a contending team, but the wild card remains Piniella.


Signed free agent OF Gerald Williams to a two-year contract with a club option for 2002; designated C Mike Figga and INF Herbert Perry for assignment. [12/20]

Signed C Mike Figga to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/22]

"Gladys, send in Steve and Bubba... Hi Steve, hi Bubba. You know, we here in the Red Devils organization really appreciate everything you two have done for us. You're both swell young guys, and you play hard and even hit well. That's really neat. But I figured the honest thing to do was to let you both know we've decided you should both get every opportunity to set some career milestones in the International League. It'll be great, just you wait and see. Now, don't use that kind of language in here, we operate on the Lou Holtz principle of mealy-mouthed BS, not straight talk like that. You see, the organization has decided it doesn't want to go in a new direction. We like our players old enough to share their memories with the season ticket holders. This year's promotional campaign is built around Mr. Turner's brother-in-law and that nice film... Gilded Lilies or On Golden Showers or something like that. Anyways, we're in touch with our fans, and they want bluehairs and beehives, just like any real Americans would. We're bringing in this nice middle-aged man, Chocolate Ice or something like that, and would you believe he's got playoff experience! Playing for Mr. Turner, no less! And I understand he made some records in the 80s. Or played in the NBA. I'm not really sure. Anyways, I wanted to wish you a lovely pair of careers in Charlotte, and please pass on my sincere regards to that nice Mr. McClain when you get there."


Signed C B.J. Waszgis and INF Edwin Diaz to minor-league contracts; outrighted OF Mike Zywica to Oklahoma. [12/20]

I'm shocked, shocked, to see another ex-Oriole like Waszgis end up playing for Bob Melvin. What is this world coming to? In all seriousness, not a bad pickup, as if Pudge's team needed him.


Announced that 1B David Segui has accepted salary arbitration; designated 3B Willis Otanez for assignment. [12/20]

Signed RHP Frank Castillo. [12/21]

There are some players you offer arbitration to. Greg Vaughn, for instance--you know he's going to get (and take) the big money offer somewhere. But David Segui is the classic example of the guy you never ever offer arbitration to, unless he's represented by Jody Reed's agent. He's not even one of the twenty best major league first basemen. Once he leaves, you replace him with an upgrade, like a Kevin Witt-Andy Thompson platoon, for all of $500 K. He's only worth draft picks because the goofballs in Elias think he's worth something, but you're a major league team, and you ought to know better. Instead, by offering him arbitration, Segui didn't have to end up being the late, cheap signing he deserved to be, and now he's going to win something like $5 million to DH because Carlos Delgado wants to play first and was given the big contract he deserves. And Gord Ash's employers will be the worse for it, all because Mr. Ash thought he'd get a draft pick for a defensive replacement. I had thought trading for Fonzie Bichette was probably this winter's biggest non-Mets boner, but here we have a roster move to make even the Mets blush.

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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