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January 19, 1998
January 5-15ANAHEIM ANGELS
Signed INF Norberto Martin to a one-year contract. [1/9]
Signed RHP William VanLandingham to a one-year contract. [1/10]
With the defections of Jack Howell and Craig Grebeck, the Angels were getting pretty thin for utility infielders. Paco Martin may have his faults (mostly in the field), but as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner for Gary DiSarcina, he'll be handy. Of course, if Randy Velarde isn't fully healthy, the Angels are in the ugly situation where Paco may get more than 200 ABs.
Signed INF Andy Stankiewicz to a one-year major league contract. [1/8]
Buck Showalter picks up an old favorite, and this case of favoritism has an astounding sticker price of $350,000. "Stanky" is your run-of-the-mill backup to your first utility infielder, but in the Diamondbacks' "buy nice" shopping spree, he's a beneficiary.
Signed LHP Mark Davis to a minor league contract. [1/9]
So, what exactly did the Brewers get out of picking him up for their "stretch drive?" Was there ever a more feeble collection of stretch drive pickups than Davis, Pete Harnisch, Darrin Jackson, and Paul Wagner?
Signed 2B Mitch Simons, 2B/3B P.J. Forbes, RHP Kevin Gallaher, LHP Doug Johns, and OF Scott Lydy to minor league contracts. [1/7]
Stocking up for Rochester, although add Scott Lydy to the list of people who should be playing for the O's instead of Joe Carter, even despite Lydy's failed Japanese adventure in '97.
Added LHP Norm Charlton to the 40-man roster, and designated RHP Hector Ramirez for assignment. [1/9]
Although Ramirez is hardly an outstanding prospect, this seems a bit premature. There's a very good chance that Charlton is done for good, and to make space on the major league roster for him at all before he shows that he isn't constitutes a major risk.
Invited RHPs Kennie Steenstra and Kerry Wood, LHP Ben VanRyn, Cs Jose Molina, C/1B Alan Zinter, 1B/3B Tim Unroe, and OF Derrick White to spring training. [1/6]
With the departures of Dave Hansen and Dave Clark, the Cubs' bench is looking sparse, so either of Zinter and Unroe could win a role as the first pinch-hitter off the bench. Wood isn't expected to win a job out of camp, and Steenstra is being rewarded for his years of thankless service in Iowa. Of this group, Ben VanRyn may have the biggest opportunity to make the club for Opening Day, since the #2 lefty role behind Bob Patterson is empty after Ramon Tatis' selection in the Expansion Draft. Its a role he can succeed in.
Signed RHP Rod Beck to a one-year contract, with a mutual option for 1999. [1/15]
Ed Lynch is already telling all listeners about Beck's "moxie." Beck's a flyball pitcher moving to the next-worst NL location for the breed other than Planet Coors. The only thing that bodes well for his future is that one of the main reasons that Mel Rojas and Doug Jones, Ed Lynch's previous unmoxious closer selections, flopped as badly as they did was that both are pitchers who need or prefer regular workloads, as opposed to strict pidgeonholing into the "lead in the ninth," three-outs closer's role; Beck clearly is that type of pitcher, and Riggleman's habit of using his closer in this fashion will, at best, not be unusual for either of them.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Signed DH Ruben Sierra and RHP Jim Bullinger to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/9]
Signed OF Lou Frazier and LHP Larry Casian to minor league contracts. [1/13]
In the background of the Sox' youth movement, they're tacking on some veteran scrubs to challenge for some roles. Both Sierra and Frazier will contend for the team's perceived need for a LH-hitting OF, although both are clearly inadequate options. Ron Schueler, in a rare moment of ebullience, is saying Sierra's lost weight, is playing with desire, and basically covering his own tuckus for wasting valuable pen nub microns with the signing. Larry Casian has an excellent chance to earn the job as the second lefty out of the pen behind Tony Castillo, since the homegrown alternatives (Bertotti, Sirotka, or Fordham) are all "unproven." Jim Bullinger could win a job either in the bullpen, in which case he may surprise many people as a successful long reliever, or as a starter, where he'll go through his usual cycle of putting up a good start when he gets a weeks' rest, and getting pasted as soon as he has to appear more regularly than that.
Signed CF Deion Sanders and RHPs Jose Rijo, Pete Janicki, and Brian Keyser to minor league contracts. [1/8]
It isn't expected that either Sanders or Rijo will actually play: Pine Time is taking $5,000 per month in exchange for allowing the Reds to keep his rights, and Rijo's deal is basically the same sort of thing. Since Sanders isn't a useful baseball player, that's good donut money down the tubes. Keyser should be one of the anchors of the Indianapolis rotation, but he has the potential to pull off a Rick Reed-sized surprise if a team wanted to just plop him into the fifth slot of a rotation. Injuries ruined whatever chance the once-touted Janicki may have had as a starter, and he struggled badly in his first year as a reliever in '97.
Re-signed 3B Pete Rose Jr. to a minor league contract. [1/12]
Signed OF Steve Gibralter to a minor league contract. [1/14]
Both are basic re-signings, although in Gibralter's case, its the beginning of his comeback from shoulder surgery, and in Rose's case, its the most celebrated minor league free agent signing of the offseason.
Signed 2B Carlos Garcia to a one year contract with a club option for 1999; sold the contract of RHP Travis Driskill to Yakult of the Japanese Leagues. [1/6]
Signed RHPs Jason Grimsley, John Ericks, and Jamie McAndrew and LHP John Cummings to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/8]
Signing Garcia is essentially a waste of ink. He's older than his advertised 30, he has postage-stamp range afield, and isn't a better player than Casey Candaele at this point. If anything, this is a sign that Hart hasn't made up his mind about moving Enrique Wilson to second. Driskill has earned high marks for his breaking stuff, and Japan may be the right place for him to sharpen his command, possibly leading to a shot at being the first pitcher to follow Fielder's career path through the Japanese excursion. Of the veteran pitchers, Ericks has an opportunity to be a major sleeper, even if the Tribe doesn't trade Jose Mesa, as rumored. Grimsley, McAndrew, and Cummings will earn their keep in Buffalo.
Signed C Ron Karkovice, LHP Jimmy Williams, RHPs Andy Croghan and Anthony Young, C Sean Mulligan, and SS Brandon Wilson to minor league contracts, and invited Karkovice to spring training. [1/13]
Although most of these signings are the usual additions to make the Bisons a solid contender, Karkovice will be fighting with Pat Borders for the shot to back up Sandy Alomar.
Invited RHP David Wainhouse, LHPs Bruce Ruffin and Mike Farmer, Cs Blake Barthol, Dan Cholowsky, Ben Petrick, and Mark Strittmatter, 1B Greg Colbrunn, INFs Nelson Liriano and Terry Shumpert, 2B Tim Barker, and OFs Jeff Barry and Sherman Obando to spring training. [1/7]
Of this group, Liriano, Shumpert and Barker will all be fighting for the utility role behind Neifi Perez and Mike Lansing, and since Baylor prefers to let his starting lineup play as much as possible, that means little playing time. Colbrunn is probably a lock for the roster, starting off as a veteran insurance policy for Helton, and probably doing some snatches of platoon duty for the entire season. He should also win the ace PH job that Baylor usually slots one player for, although Obando has a small chance at that job.
Signed RHP Pedro Astacio to a four-year contract, with a club option for 2002. [1/14]
The amazing thing here is that the Rox are spending the "windfall" of the money they've saved from not re-signing Andres Galarraga, and they're spending it on pitching. A little more than two years from now, they're going to be carrying the extension they've given to Castilla, and the contracts they gave to Kile and Astacio, and they'll be either signing Neifi Perez and Todd Helton to long-term deals or taking a shellacking in arbitration, and they're going to wonder where the money went.
Extended manager Buddy Bell's contract two years with a club option for 2001. [1/12]
Signed OF Bobby Higginson to a four-year contract. [1/15]
The Higginson contract is two things: first, its a nice gesture that says that the Tigers reward players that come up through the system, and second, its a bit of a risk, since Higgy is a slow player with poor range who may be DHing by the end of that contract. And its an open question about whether or not he would have been the cheapest and best available hitter for the position.
Signed LHP Pete Schourek and RHP Reggie Harris to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/9]
Re-signed 3B Sean Berry to a one-year contract. [1/13]
Traded CF James Mouton to San Diego for RHP Sean Bergman. [1/14]
With the pickups of Moises Alou, Carl Everett, and Dave Clark, and the emergence of Richard Hidalgo, Mouton was looking at a return to AAA. Instead, the Astros got Bergman, who, with Kile's departure and Holt's injury, has a chance to win a spot in the rotation, or at least revive his careeer as Russ Springer did the year before. Schourek is probably ready to shoot his agent, after they rejected the Reds' "low-ball" offers last summer in expectation of free agent swag. Whether or not he's still damaged goods will have to be seen in camp. Reggie Harris is at least one BP author fave, and the Astrodome is a good spot for him to build on last year's comeback. Although it was in doubt for awhile, Berry's return has created certain pressures: he's most likely going to spend much of the year platooning with Spiers at third, which means that Russ Johnson's will have to take his chances at shortstop against Ricky Gutierrez and Tim Bogar. The organization has said it isn't absolutely convinced that he can play a full season on turf at short, so he may have to settle for a utility role.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Signed RHP Brian Barber to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/5]
Barber is the Cardinals' '91 first-round pick who has endured injuries which have wrecked what little command he had of his once-awesome fastball. With the Royals' continuing bullpen miseries, he may yet recover a career throwing in relief.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Signed OF Thomas Howard to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/7]
Howard is a lock to be the Dodgers' fourth outfielder, and once Todd Hollandsworth falls apart again for the umpteenth time, has a chance to get a big chunk of playing time, a la Wayne Kirby.
Signed RHP Mark Gubicza to a minor league contract. [1/12]
Signed 2B Eric Young to a four-year contract, RHP Darren Hall to a two-year contract, and LF Billy Ashley to a one-year contract. [1/15]
Gubicza is basically an insurance policy for Denny Reyes at the fifth starter slot. The Dodgers made the curious decision to give Young a four-year contract the day after the Rockies had done the same for Pedro Astacio. For Young, the timing couldn't be better: his perceived (Coors-inflated) value is much higher than his actual use. Meanwhile, Adam Riggs has to be wondering if he'll get a career. Darren Hall must have chutzpah'd his way into a multi-year deal, similar to his loud proclamations last spring that he belonged on the team (ahead of Antonio Osuna, as it turned out).
Signed DH Bob Hamelin to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/14]
A dandy pickup, even if the Brewers are solemnly talking about how he'll have to watch his weight. The difference between Bob Hamelin and Paul Sorrento (beyond oodles of cash) is negligible, and if Jaha breaks down again, the Brewers are set with an excellent alternative. As is, they'll have a dangerous PH for NL play, and they'll have a great option for their interleague games.
Signed RHP Ricky Bones to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/6]
Named Joe McIlvaine special assistant to the GM Terry Ryan. [1/7]
Signed LHP Dan Smith to a minor league contract. [1/7]
The Twins continue their acquisition campaign of other people's washouts. Smith was once a highly regarded prospect in the Rangers' chain, but like almost anyone drafted by Tom Grieve, he hasn't worked out. Bones has an opportunity to earn a rotation slot by virtue of not being Frank Rodriguez, since the organization hasn't regained its faith in him yet. Adding McIlvaine bodes ill for minor league pitchers in the organization, since he oversaw (and gloried in) the Mets' "tough guy" approach to handling minor league pitchers, leading to the workloads that ruined the Young Guns before they ever got started. If I'm Mark Redman or Jason Bell, I'm asking to be a throw-in on an outbound trade.
Signed RF/1B Orlando Merced to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/12]
Memo to Chris Latham and Ryan Radmanovich: if you were thinking you had a chance of making the team, forget it. Unless you're old enough to remember Jimmy Carter's malaise, you're just not in the mix. Merced isn't the worst possible bench player, and he's certainly not a disgrace to Tom Kelly's preference to keep the honorary Randy Bush roster spot stocked, but the '98 Twins are the oldest bunch of guys going nowhere (not even North Carolina) that aren't already in Baltimore.
Signed OF/PH Derrick May to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/6]
The Expos are in desperate need of a corner outfielder who can hit. Derrick May isn't it, and would be hard-pressed to earn playing time in AAA.
NEW YORK METS
Requested waivers on LHP Joe Crawford for the purpose of sending him to Chiba Lotte in the Japanese Leagues. [1/5]
Signed C Tim Spehr to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/8]
Why play ball with this intention? If I'm someone besides the Mets, I enter the waiver claim and make Crawford a free agent, to see if I can get him. Of course, he also stands to make considerably more money in Japan. Spehr will enjoy an epic fight with Alberto Castillo for the job of being the catch-and-throw guy backing up Todd Pratt until Todd Hundley comes back.
Signed RHP Masato Yoshii to a one-year contract. [1/13]
Yoshii will get first crack at the Mets' fifth starter slot after finishing fourth in the Japanese Central League in ERA for the Yakult Swallows. He's a soft-tosser, and obviously Valentine knows him.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Signed OF/DH Darryl Strawberry to a one-year contract with a club option for 1999. [1/8]
I'm not against the idea of re-signing Strawberry as a potential platoon mate for Chad Curtis, but if Ricky Ledee is healthy and puts up a good month in Columbus, Straw should be riding the pine. It also begs the question why the Yanks re-signed Raines as well, unless they intend to trade O'Neill.
Named Jeff Leonard manager at Huntsville (AA). [1/8]
Just a happy tidbit to see for the man voted least likely to be on Dan Gladden's Christmas card list. Despite Mike Krukow's old observation that Leonard "was every white boy's nightmare - an angry black man with a club," the Hit Man has made a name for himself as a successful minor league manager and hitting coach, and if he succeeds at AA as well as he did in Modesto, will start showing up on short lists for major league jobs shortly.
Signed RHP Mike Welch to a minor league contract. [1/7]
Norfolk's closer in '97, Welch isn't a good bet for major league success. Expect him to fill the same role for Scranton in '98.
Signed 2B David Doster and RHP Richie Lewis to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training. [1/14]
Because of the pickup of Mark Lewis and the continuing presence of Rex Hudler, Doster is basically out of luck as far as getting a crack at the 2B job after a fine campaign at Scranton (.315/.370/.520). Mark could potentially move to SS if Desi Relaford struggles and we see a veterans' revolt against the rookie; otherwise, Doster is out of luck, and has to hope he inherits Kevin Jordan's role.
Signed RHP Esteban Loaiza to a two-year contract. [1/5]
Signed RHP Todd Bussa, LHPs Steve Mintz, Kevin Tolar, and Steve Wiegandt, 1Bs Kevin Grijak and Dave Kennedy, and OF Phil Geisler to minor league contracts. [1/7]
Similarly to last year, Cam Bonifay likes hoarding LH pitching (the Buccos were the only team to have four lefties make over 30 relief appearances). Bussa has been a successful reliever in the Detroit, Florida, San Diego, and Oakland organizations by the tender age of 25. He could be a major surprise with the Pirates. Grijak's days as a prospect have come and gone; its slightly sad that he'll be behind Ron Wright, who had superseded him in the Atlanta organization as well. Kennedy enjoyed a big season with the St. Paul Saints in the Northern League, and will have to settle for an A-ball opportunity. Signing Loiaza means that three of the team's four definite starters are signed through 1999, with Jason Schmidt the next rumored long-term signee.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Signed RHP Kent Bottenfield to a one year contract with a club option for 1999. [1/6]
Just as it was a good decision for the Cubs to avoid arbitration, its a worthwhile investment for the Cardinals to have gotten him for less than he would have gotten from the arbitrator ($700,000). With Mathews traded, Eckersley and Fossas gone, and Honeycutt retired, the Cardinals, their are plenty of opportunities in the Cards' pen behind Jeff Brantley in the closer's role.
Signed RHPs Jose Bautista and Rusty Meacham, C Mike Stefanski, C/UT Reed Secrist, 1B Brian Hunter, 2B Roberto Mejia, and OFs Wes Chamberlain and Wayne Kirby to minor league contracts, and invited them (and RHPs Cliff Politte and Braden Looper and LHP Rich Ankiel) to spring training. [1/13]
Hunter, Chamberlain, and Kirby are all fighting for jobs as pinch-hitters on Tony LaRussa's bench, and Bautista and Meacham are basically praying that nobody out of the farm system opens TLR's eyes in camp, so that they can extend their middle relief lives for another month or two.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Signed LHP Mark Langston to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation. [1/7]
Agreed to terms with 2B Quilvio Veras on a two-year contract. [1/8]
Langston claims he had no interest in signing until he could verify that his elbow was sound, which is apparently the case now. He'll fight with Sterling Hitchcock and Pete Smith for the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation, and I wouldn't count him out yet. Smith has flubbed golden opportunities in the past, and Hitchcock is coming off of two consecutive miserable seasons.
Traded RHP Sean Bergman to Houston for CF James Mouton. [1/14]
After already shoring up their rotation, the Padres weren't likely to use Bergman much, so acquiring Mouton was a case of both teams swapping from strength. Mouton gives the Pads an outstanding defensive player who can pinch-run and smack a LHP around, which, with Tony Gwynn and Steve Finley as regulars, makes for a dandy sub to go with Mark Sweeney on the bench.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Signed minor league free agents RHPs Chris Brock, Jeff Darwin, and Rick Huisman, LHPs Dean Hartgraves and Eric Plantenberg, C Henry Mercedes, and INF Matt Howard, and re-signed 3B Jeff Ball. [1/12]
Although the Giants may have room in middle relief, none of the pitchers have good shots at roles on the club. Mercedes may luck into a job by virtue of Dusty's preference to carry three catchers.
Signed "OF" Glenallen Hill to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/7]
At 32, Hill is old enough to play for Lou, who has already publicly hinted that Hill could win the LF job outright from the dreaded Ducey/Amaral platoon. Hill, Buhner, and Griffey will make for the slowest OF in the majors, and Hill and Buhner's range afield leaves alot to be desired, so the Mariners moundsmen should be unhappy about this move.
Signed RHPs Jarod Juelsgaard, Randy Veres, and Doug Mlicki, LHPs David Holdridge and Andrew Lorraine, C Ken Huckaby, INFs Rico Rossy and Jeff Berblinger, and OFs Ricky Cradle and Jalal Leach to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs; invited LHP Ryan Anderson, RHP Andres Berumen, Cs John Marzano and Dusty Wathan, and OF Glenallen Hill to spring training. [1/13]
Anybody remember that Holdridge was traded for Lance Parrish once upon a time? Okay, other than a few particularly bitter Phillies fans? Berblinger and Rossy may have the best opportunities to win jobs as utility infielders, since the competition is bad: Jeff Huson and Pat Listach. Hill, of course, is the favorite to win the starting job in LF in camp, which means room on the 40-man roster will have to be made for him.
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Signed LHP Ryan Karp to a minor league contract. Signed GM Chuck LaMar to a five-year contract through 2002. [1/13]
Signed SS Kevin Stocker to a three-year contract. [1/15]
Well, there's a fine how-do-you-do: the results of what LaMar has done have no results whatsoever, and he's already being rewarded for it. Karp re-signed with the Rays almost immediately after being designated for assignment. I'm no big fan of Kevin Stocker, so it shouldn't shock you if I said he'll be a liability by the end of the three years. Some people are talking as if he's turned into a good OBP guy, but he drew a whopping 44 walks in 560 PA. If he can build on that, he may have a late-career surge similar to Spike Owen, but if he regresses or stays in place, he isn't helping.
Signed LHP Eric Gunderson to a one-year contract. [1/15]
The lottery for LH jobs produces some happy results for some. Gunderson could easily be on a track similar to Dennis Cook.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Signed OF Jacob Brumfield and 2B Jeff Patzke to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/5]
Brumfield will have the inside track to be the team's fourth outfielder behind the Stewart-Green-Cruz trio. Patzke ought to have first crack at the second base job, but with the signings of Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly, he's doomed to return to Syracuse.