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January 11, 2000

Transaction Analysis

December 28, 1999-January 8, 2000

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed LHP Greg Cadaret to a minor-league contract. [1/5]

Signed 2B/3B Scott Spiezio to a one-year contract, and IFs Pat Kelly and Jason Bates to minor-league contracts. [1/7]

Unless Keith Luuloa convinces a Disney exec that Sneezy was the Hawaiian-American dwarf, Spiezio has a lock on the Angel second-base job. There are a lot of reasons why this isn't a bad little risk for the Angels. Spiezio is only 27, and unlike Trent Durrington or Justin Baughman, he can actually get the ball out of the infield, valuable for an Angel team that's going to struggle offensively.

Unfortunately, his defensive value at second base is limited, and the Angels aren't going to have a pitching staff good enough to cover for Spiezio's bad knees and limited range. Sure, getting him papers over the organization's pathetic lack of useful position-playing prospects, but at least he was there for the taking. He's a better offensive player than the widely-rumored alternative, which was signing Mickey Morandini.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed RHP Jose Mercedes to a minor-league contract with a spring-training NRI. [1/3]

This won't do Rochester much good, what with Mercedes's persistent arm problems.

CHICAGO CUBS

Signed RHP Brian Williams to a one-year contract. [1/7]

Williams was just about out of baseball before being hauled back on a lark by the Astros. I'm convinced that the Astros' brass, Larry Dierker and Vern Ruhle brought him back just to prove they could turn almost anyone into an adequate reliever. Williams was just that, just barely.

Now, as desperate as the Cubs have been--and will be--for useful relievers, there's something really pathetic about blowing $600,000 on someone else's reclamation project. Are they really so incapable of applying the lesson Williams represents, that relievers about as good as Matt Karchner really do grow on trees? Are they incapable of identifying these kinds of pitchers themselves? Well...yes, as a matter of fact they are. Just ask Dan Serafini.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed LHP Chris Haney to a minor-league contract with a spring-training NRI. [1/8]

It probably wasn't the difference between winning and losing against the Red Sox. Still, not letting Haney take a regular spot in the rotation ranks about fourth or fifth on the list of "things John Hart ought to have rethought" about the Tribe's 1999 pitching staff. Certainly behind not giving up Jared Camp in the proposed Chuck Finley deal last July. Certainly behind dumping Orel Hershiser and Ron Villone. Almost certainly behind putting Steve Karsay in the rotation.

Now Haney is back, but the Tribe already has Danys Baez and Jaret Wright duking it out for the fifth spot in the rotation, so he has to hope plenty of people break down. And that's if Hart is done shopping, when most indications are that he isn't.

HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed RHPs Travis Driskill, Rick Huisman, Brad Kaufman, Rusty Meacham, Joe Slusarski and Bryan Wolff; LHP Eric Plantenberg and OF Marc Sagmoen to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/3]

Signed RHP Jose Lima to a three-year contract; signed C Raul Chavez, 1B Mike Robertson and RHP Don Wengert to minor-league contracts with spring-training NRIs. [1/5]

Signed RHP Dwight Gooden to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/6]

Talk about an organization that knows it doesn't matter who the 11th pitcher is. Any of this crew of washouts and minor league vets, or even a Japanese Leaguer like Driskill, can be this year's Brian Williams or Jason Grimsley. And as if making it to the majors to stay wasn't motivation enough, Brian Williams's guaranteed deal with the Cubs should give them all an inclination of what they can get out of some adequate middle-relief innings.

Even more brazen is the effort to resurrect Doc Gooden. I wouldn't bet on his beating out Chris Holt for the fifth rotation spot, but if any organization can get something out of him, it might just be the Astros. The concern is that the Astros are reading their own press clippings, and thinking they can turn anyone into an adequate major-league pitcher. Brian Williams is one thing, but Doc Gooden without a fastball and with no good breaking pitch? Don Wengert? Talk about chutzpah. If it works out, then it's even more to their credit than nabbing Octavio Dotel was.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed RHP Gregg Olson to a two-year contract. [1/5]

Re-signed RHP Darren Dreifort to a one-year contract; signed UT F.P. Santangelo to a two-year contract. [1/7]

While the Pastaman's patsies are making happy noises about how they're serious, they're still being penny- and pound-foolish with both talent and money. Plenty of guaranteed money for Double-G? This is what Kevin Malone was shedding salary for? After losing Jeff Kubenka on waivers? Is improvement the objective, or just random redistribution of a big payroll?

NEW YORK METS

Granted DH Bobby Bonilla his unconditional release. [1/3]

Signed IF Domingo Cedeno to a minor-league contract with a spring-training NRI; signed IF Kevin Baez to a minor-league contract. [1/5]

To: Bobby Bonilla
From: Steve Phillips
RE: Team Scapegoat Policy

Dear Mr. Bonilla,

We regret to inform you of our decision to release you unconditionally. While your representatives and the accounting department work out the financial details, we thought it only fair to offer a reason for why you're going to have plenty of time to accept Donald Trump's offer on that draw-poker ad deal.

As you should remember from last summer, the ballclub let Brian McRae go after you had solidified your position as the team's non-Piazza scapegoat. Now that we Metropolitans have recently made the decision to bring in Derek Bell, we have already fulfilled the organization's need for this year's non-Piazza scapegoat. Please keep in mind that unprofessional considerations of whether or not we liked you played absolutely no part in this decision. After all, we were willing to take you off of Davey Johnson's hands in the first place. So buck up, kiddo! I'm sure the Devil Rays will be calling.

Toodles! Steve

NEW YORK YANKEES

Named DM Randy Levine president. [1/5]

Acquired CF Terry Jones from the Dodgers for a PTBNL. [1/6]

Levine's most recent job was as New York's deputy mayor. More importantly, he's a family friend of the Seligs, and put in spot duty negotiating away the egg on the owner's faces after the labor fiasco of 1994 and 1995. It should say something about the state of the game that family connections still mean more than going out and finding some really good lawyers.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Re-signed OF Rich Becker to a one-year contract. [12/29]

Signed RHP Scott Service to a one-year contract. [12/30]

Signed RHP Omar Olivares to a two-year contract. [1/8]

The Angels got greedy as far as what they were asking for in exchange for Jim Edmonds, so here's what Billy Beane elected to do instead. Becker's back, and from among Becker and Terrence Long and Mario Encarnacion and Ryan Christenson and Bo Porter, they'll crank out a platoon of some sort in center field.

Olivares, like David Segui before him, seems to have figured out that the free-agent market isn't necessarily all that friendly, and ducked into the first safe haven he and Scott Boras saw. His deal is interesting on a couple of levels: the A's have the right to trade him immediately to any team not named the Phillies or the Rockies, while he may be able to opt out after the first season. I'm not a big fan of any pitcher with strikeout rates as low as Olivares's, but the way the division is shaking down, getting a half-decent starting pitcher for $4 million isn't a bad gamble. The signing only makes it that much more certain that Barry Zito won't get a clean shot at the rotation until June or July, while the fifth starter should be settled by a fight in camp between Mark Mulder and Brett Laxton.

Service is coming off of an awful season in which he was co-chairman, along with Jeff Montgomery, of the Royals' tremendous bullpen blowout. Even so, he's a better guy to take a chance on than Tim Worrell. With Doug Jones, Jason Isringhausen and T.J. Mathews already in place, Service will only be mopping up. The bad news is that Chad Harville is probably screwed, at least until one of the other guys gets hurt.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed RHP Andy Benes to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season. [1/7]

If Walt Jocketty spends enough money, does Tony LaRussa get to be a genius again?

This is the Cardinals' response to the Astros' trade of Mike Hampton. With a rotation of Darryl Kile, Pat Hentgen, Benes, Kent Bottenfield and Rick Ankiel, everything's looking ducky for the Cardinals, assuming they can score runs. That isn't guaranteed any more than buying big-name pitchers for top dollar is, but Benes does help improve the Cardinals' chances to win the division in 2000.

Give Jocketty credit, if belatedly: he blew the first two years and two months of Mark McGwire, but now that Big Red is 36, Jocketty has finally come to the realization that it is better to rage against the dying of the light than to turn into the Cubs.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Acquired RHP Ken Ray from the Royals to complete the Jerry Spradlin trade. [1/7]

Now that's embarrassing, if you're Spradlin. Ray hasn't had an ERA below 5.00 since high A-ball in 1995.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed RHP Juan Guzman to a two-year contract, with a club option for a third season. [1/7]

Vince Naimoli has thrown down the glove. By god, if fans don't come see him spend money, nothing's going to make major-league baseball work in Tampa Bay! The Devil Rays' rotation needed the help, what with so much money already down the tubes thanks to Bobby Seay and Matt White, either of whose ETA is sometime after we achieve national consensus on when the third millennium begins (or began). But even with all of this money spent, chances are that Guzman won't give the Rays 60 starts over the two years, and all they'll have to brag about is that really tough fight they gave the Orioles for fourth place.

TEXAS RANGERS

Signed LHP Kenny Rogers to a three-year contract. [12/29]

The signing makes sense in terms of head-to-head competition with the Mariners and the A's, both of whom are heavily dependent on left-handed power. But in terms of replacing Aaron Sele, this is bad news. Rogers's velocity has dropped dramatically in the last year and a half, and he's leaving a couple of good pitchers' parks in Oakland and Shea. While the long-term picture for the Rangers' offense isn't bad, they won't score 945 runs again, so run support will be an issue. Even though he's two years younger than Chuck Finley, Rogers is a greater health risk.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Agreed to terms with LHP Pedro Borbon on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/7]

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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