November 4, 2005
October 27-November 3
Declined their option on LHP Jason Christiansen, making him a free agent. [11/1]
Re-signed RHP Mike Timlin to a one-year contract. [11/2]
He's not a funky platoon beast, he doesn't have a funky movement, or a dominating moustache, and he doesn't have an official closing license from the Department of Pitches and Games. He's just durable and effective, and at the end of the day, those are skills that demand great respect. Not that Timlin is the new Mike Marshall or anything like that, but these days, he's about as far as you get from the Matt Mantei/Chad Fox crowd. Kudos to... hmmm, well, whoever's in charge these days, whether that's Larry Lucchino or Al Haig.
Exercised their $1.2 million option on RHP Cliff Politte for 2006; declined their $5 million option on DH-B Carl Everett for 2006, making him a free agent; announced that DH-R Frank Thomas exercised his $10 million option for 2006. [10/31]
The question the White Sox will have to sort out (once the Old Style clears their system), is whether or not Kenny Williams loads up for bear and looks for a bat that can help out as a reserve outfielder and prospective DH. Much as I've always loved watching the Big Hurt at the plate, can anyone count on that happening 400 or more times next season? And that's without getting into whether or not the Sox can re-sign Paul Konerko. For that fourth outfielder's job, I'd certainly understand if they just went with a plan that the job is Joe Borchard's until he loses it, but if Williams doesn't land Konerko before the end of their exclusive negotiating window, that could change.
Re-signed INF-L Ramon Vazquez to a one-year, $700,000 contract. [10/28]
Not a bad idea, as retentions go. Batting lefty, Vazquez makes for a nice alternative to right-handed hitters like Aaron Boone and Jhonny Peralta. More importantly, there's no way to know how Ron Belliard's free agency will play out. As much as a Vazquez-Jose Hernandez platoon would be cool in Strat, I don't think anyone believes that would work all that well defensively over a full season.
What do you do if you're Hatteberg? From being perhaps the most lamentable celeb conjured up from the pages of Moneyball--if not Jeremy Brown, it's Hatteberg--who does he go to? These days, the stathead set is smart enough to identify him as a player you don't want starting for you (all he did for me was induce Bruce Bochte flashbacks), but he might be tarred with that singular association that has the game's reactionaries frothing at the mouth these days. Given his readiness to foul off a few pitches and his lack of a serious platoon split, he'd at least make for a nifty pinch-hitter for a National League team.
Announced the hiring of Gerry Hunsicker to be senior vice president of baseball operations. [11/3]
Maybe this is a good thing, and maybe this means the Devil Rays will have an Ausmus faction stalking their offices. How well this works out, with Hunsicker reporting to young thing executive VP Andew Friedman, is anybody's guess. Hopefully, the suits will treat this as a management team instead of an opportunity to sharpen their knives and see who it is who really takes up the mantle of the lamentable LaMar. Hunsicker has a reputation for having a more than agreeable opinion of himself, so it would be a happy turn of events if he shelved that and was instead an effective mentor to Friedman; if you're feeling less snarky, it's worth pointing out that Houston's Tim Purpura worked for Hunsicker for years, and before this year, Purpura was one of the least-heralded up-and-coming front office execs in the game. If the Husicker-Purpura relationship was a real mentoring situation, then you have reason to think this could work out very well.
Received cash to complete the 7/21 trade that sent SS-R John McDonald to the Tigers. [11/3]
Named Josh Byrnes general manager. [10/27]
Although I generally like this move, there are questions as to whether or not this is really going to work all that well. Rumors that Byrnes is making less than scouting director Mike Rizzo certainly don't help but make me wonder if Byrnes was all over the idea of getting out of Boston as quickly as possible. However that plays out, Byrnes might be a closer match to J.P. Ricciardi than anyone else among the next gen GMs, which should inoculate him somewhat against the inevitable bigotry on the beat.
Exercised the 2006 option on RHP John Thomson. [11/1]
Are we all still wild about the aging and mediocre if they stick around in Atlanta, or are we back to Rick Mahler days now that Leo Mazzone has gone to the Birds? Since he missed three months with a hand injury and not one to his shoulder or elbow, I guess we can be guardedly optimistic, but I guess I go back to wondering if this isn't just $4.8 million being spent on a fourth starter. I generally think you can do better than that for that kind of money, but maybe I'm still stuck in last winter's mindset that you pay $3 million for your fourth starter types.
Declined their $7 million option on OF-L Jeromy Burnitz for 2006, making him a free agent; exercised the $2 million option on Scott Williamson and their $2.5 million option on 2B-L Todd Walker for 2006. [10/28]
Re-signed LHP Glendon Rusch to a two-year, $6 million contract. [10/31]
Questions abound: who's going to play in right field? Matt Murton? On a Dusty Baker team? Or is this an outfield that will try to have both Corey Patterson and Jerry Hairston Jr. in it? Or will the Cubs dive into the bidding on Brian Giles? It's a potential ugly situation, because the free agent market in outfielders is pretty weak: after Giles, there's Rondell White, and then... Jacque Jones? Richard Hidalgo? Juan Gonzalez, for an incentive-laden deal? Getting reacquainted with Michael Tucker or Todd Hollandsworth? After Giles and White, none of these guys resemble key offensive cogs on a contender, and presumably, that's what the Cubs still see themselves as. Jim Hendry may have to be more ambitious than just exercising the wallet; he's probably better off talking swap.
Rusch and Williamson are here as insurance policies, for both the young guns in the rotation and Ryan Dempster if he goes Borowski on us, respectively, but that's the fun thing about a Baker production: he may get it backwards again, and make Rusch a reliever and Williamson a starter, and fart around for a month or two before he notices it isn't working. This being the Cubs, at least they're spending a lot of money on their insurance, even if the manager isn't always quite sure how to use it. At the very best, Williamson will be a healthy part of a complete bullpen that could gel as effectively as Ozzie's gang down south. Don't laugh: nobody expected Dustin Hermanson to be that good for that long, did they?
Well, thank god for small blessings. For a while there, it seemed as if the Reds thought that Aurilia was the second coming of Kurt Stillwell, just scrappy and pasty enough to be his own collage. Notionally, they've got a keystone combo of Felipe Lopez at short and Ryan Freel at second, which leaves Rainer Olmedo, William Bergolla, and Lopez squabbling over one or two jobs on the bench. Since all three are glovely subs with little pop at the plate, this might be a situation where you can only have just one.
As for letting Ortiz go, I'm glad that it seems they'd rather go shopping. If, for the sake of argument, we say that Paul Wilson will be ready to go, that gives them a rotation of Wilson, Aaron Harang, Brandon Claussen, and the Eric Milton horror show. I don't expect them to leave one slot open all winter for guys like Ben Kozlowski or Phil Dumatrait to fight over in spring. Instead, they're better off taking a splash in the market, and finding out what's available at a modest price.
Re-signed RHP Mike DeJean to a one-year, $1.3 million contract. [10/27]
Inside of a year, DeJean apparently went from a guy in which the Mets thought they saw something to someone they wanted to see a lot less of, but it seems to have worked out for the best. DeJean is that rare pitcher who copes reasonably well with Coors Field, and I guess he'll be the solid citizen right-handed veteran in a pen that may or may not have the mutinous Dan Miceli around next season.
Declined their option on RHP Antonio Alfonseca, making him a free agent. [11/1]
Pulpo at Santorini? Sign me up. Sign Pulpo, on the other hand... look, the six-finger surprise aside, he may well be the most overrated reliever in the game. Like my favorite mollusc, you might find he's better broiled than in his native environment, although Alfonseca does give you a handy self-immolation feature.
Declined their option on RHP Danny Graves for 2006, making him a free agent. [10/27]
Activated OF-R Mike Cameron, RHPs Bartolome Fortunato and Tyler Yates, LHP Felix Heredia and 2B-R Jeff Keppinger from the 15-day DL; declined their $3.75 million option on 1B-L Doug Mientkiewicz for 2006, making him a free agent; declined their $5.5 million option on RHP Braden Looper for 2006, making him a free agent; exercised their $2.5 million option on RHP Steve Trachsel. [10/31]
Maybe it's because I'm an unashamed Trachsel fan (the Alibi Ike for a new millennium), but this was a nifty pickup. At that price, he's an asset as a fifth starter, but more importantly, he becomes an even more valuable commodity in trade to the budget conscious teams that might have an outfielder or first baseman to peddle. A package of prospects and an affordable veteran starter should be interesting to teams like the Reds or Brewers or Fish. So we'll see what Omar Minaya does, but happily, it won't involve Minky, a Sport Illustrated object of fascination for the people predisposed to be Keith Hernandez fanciers.
I suppose there's the larger subject of what happened with Looper, but whether the move was made out of economic considerations or not, there's the more basic fact that he simply wasn't very good. Skip the 85 saves over three years, that's a product of where he was put, not what he can do. What he is now is a 31 year old reliever who doesn't fool many people much of the time. Anybody whose strikeout rate drops into the four per nine range is sort of dodgy, but I suspect that somebody will bid on the save numbers for the moxie or heart of a lion or odor of defeat or whatever it is you're supposed to get from a third-rate closer. Pity Looper, he hits a market without Ed Wade in it to drive up the bidding on every free agent reliever.
As moves go, this goes beyond bad. When a hitter has a fork sticking out of his bat, you really ought to know better, however desperate you may be to "solve" your problems at third base. But Castilla's power is a mile-high memory, and he's become fragile with age. Beyond the question of whether or not he might help you sell tickets, the only thing Castilla offers the organization is a veteran so feeble that Sean Burroughs might win his old job back without making any improvements. If this was the route the Padres wanted to take, they would have been better off seeing if Scott McClain might be available and willing to take a NRI deal, because at least that would spare the Pads a winter slot on the 40-man roster.
Exercised their $10.5 million option on RHP Jason Schmidt and their $5 million option on OF-B Randy Winn for 2006; announced that 2B-B Ray Durham exercised his $7 million option and OF-R Moises Alou exercised his $6 million option for 2006; re-signed LHP Jeff Fassero to a one-year contract. [10/27]
Hail, hail, the gang's all here. Of course, this time around, it'll be with that Bonds character headlining the cast, which makes for a much different proposition. The question is more one of whether any of these guys will be worth what they're being paid, but the Giants have always been built on the hope that tomorrows never come, and that Father Time only bugs other teams.
Announced that RHP Esteban Loaiza declined his portion of a $4.5 million mutual option for 2006, making him a free agent. [10/28]
Kudos to Jim Bowden, not simply for neatly replacing Loaiza with Lawrence, a risk worth taking all by itself, but also for the other bits of recent activity. Dumping Castilla to make room for Ryan Zimmerman was the absolutely necessary move of the winter, and having gotten it out of the way this early on in the offseason definitely makes life easier, as Bowden can now turn his attention to other ideas for improving the club. Wish as we might, that won't involve making Cristian Guzman somebody else's problem.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think Lawrence will pitch as well as Loaiza did, but his peripherals in San Diego seem to have held steady, except for the batting average on balls in play. Now sure, he's coming from a pitcher's park, so I don't expect RFK to help him any more than Petco did or did not, but if his defense-dependent stats improve, he should be the solid starter he was in seasons before 2005. Getting him as the payoff for making Castilla go away is a steal.
The little moves also have their benefits, as the Nats bench starts to take on a more useful look. I like the decision to sign Castro, since he makes an solid little plug-in at second base and a decent OBP source should Bowden try to move Jose Vidro. Certainly, he's a better replacement than Jamey Carroll. Jackson can play pretty much anywhere on the diamond, and he can run, all of which makes him exactly the sort of reserve that Carlos Baerga is not.