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February 20, 2006
Signed RHP Jeff Weaver to a one-year, $8.4 million contract. [2/15]
There's just about no way that I don't like this deal. Right off the bat, it saves the Angels the indignity of having to count on Hector Carrasco as a starter, and while he's an expensive swingman, better that they take their chances with 2005's born-again career there than every fifth day. Frankly, the pen could use the help, especially if Brendan Donnelly keeps losing ground, because at this point it looks more like K-Rod, Scot Shields, and a Bunch of Guys than the all-around great pens of the Angels' recent past. So there's an indirect but immediate benefit.
Then there's the benefit of adding Weaver himself. He's not merely a replacement for Paul Byrd, he's more likely to give this team a starter as good as Byrd was last year than Byrd ever will be again. PECOTA's sunny on his possible contribution, and it isn't implausible to see him as potentially more valuable than Bartolo Colon. Other than Weaver's journey down to the Ed Whitson circle of hell, he's had a solidly useful career. Plus, maybe having Weaver takes that much more pressure off of a comebacking Kelvim Escobar, and more comfortably deposits Ervin Santana into the fifth slot. It certainly gives the Angels the added advantage of not automatically having to entrust Joe Saunders with a job in the rotation in case something happened to any of the front five (if you counted Carrasco among them).
Then there are the ways in which the financial and roster-minded outcomes matter. The Angels got a quality starting pitcher for a one-year deal, sparing themselves a considerable amount of risk. If Weaver thrives, they can offer arbitration, keep him for just another year's expense (not a bad risk, given the danger with pitchers), or take the draft picks if he walks instead of accepts. If, on the other hand, he sucks, it's only one year's budget and one season that the franchise has to write off, the sort of loss that a good GM can walk away from, and a potential predicament that Bill Stoneman would be capable of resolving. That's a much happier range of roster and payroll-minded outcomes than deciding what to do once you've spent an awful lot of money on Kris Benson or Russ Ortiz.
In short, it's a division-winning sort of a move, one that makes Oakland's life more difficult right now, while doing nothing to endanger the ability of los Angeles de Los Angeles from doing so for years to come.
Announced the retirement of RHP/DH-L Brooks Kieschnick. [2/15]
Invited RHP Andy Mitchell to spring training. [2/16]
Acquired 1B-L Andy Tracy from the Indians for a PTBNL. [2/18]
Okay, what can I say, I'm very sad to see Kieschnick go. I'm not ashamed to admit that he was my ideal 25th man, the sort of player that Doug Dascenzo wasn't ever going to be. Kieschnick could actually pitch passably well now and again, and as a Three True Outcomes hitter, he was the sort of bench bat that we've gotten accustomed to seeing driven off of rosters and out of the game with the fascination with carrying six, seven, and sometimes even eight relievers. Here's hoping that the experimenting doesn't end with Kieschnick, because he got further than other possible two-way projects, guys like Jeff Hamilton or Greg Pirkl. Let's face it, at this rate John Van Benschoten isn't doing his prospect status any favors these days, maybe his best contributions could come as a pinch-hitter, spot starter, and long reliever. Admittedly, it's early to "reduce" Van Benschoten's horizons thus, but for those of us who loved having a real two-way bit player around, it's an area of hope. Let's be fair here, after all: pitchers like Dontrelle Willis, Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Carlos Zambrano or Jason Jennings, those guys can hit well enough to be called ballplayers and not just pitchers, while a player like Kieschnick is only ever going to help you on the margins.
Claimed LHP Rusty Tucker off of waivers from the Padres. [2/14]
Consider this one of Kenny Williams' nifty little moves. Not that I think that Tucker's going to pan out, but he is a hard-throwing lefty, and if last year was a bit rough (49 walks and 11 wild pitches in 62.2 IP), he did still strike people out (69 Ks) in a season where he was recuperating from Tommy John surgery, and coping with some of the usual problems with command that can come with that. Since Tucker's command wasn't too good to start off with, I suppose you can cut him some slack. The White Sox had space on their 40-man after their various deals, and none of their NRIs looks like the sort of player who might create any extra pressure on the roster. After how well Bobby Jenks worked out, you can forgive Williams his willingness to take his chances on another wild child who can bust beyond the 90s with his heater.
Traded 1B-L Andy Tracy to the Orioles for a PTBNL. [2/18]
Signed OF-R Chad Allen to a minor league contract. [2/16]
Signed INF-R Benji Gil to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/17]
Oog. It looks like Gil will be spending his time in the infield corners in Omaha, while Allen will be similarly haunting the outfield corners. All in all, these seem like pretty rotten things to do to Omaha, but I guess it would eliminate any danger of the Royals being relegated to make space in the majors for the major league affiliate. Allen's shot at a roster spot isn't all that bad, actually, not when the organization doesn't seem to know what to do with Chip Ambres, and only has Aaron Guiel, Shane Costa, and Kerry Robinson as alternatives. He's got all the makings of what this winter seems to encourage us to believe is a Royal hitter: little power, a modest amount of plate coverage, some bat control skills, and just enough experience to make you think it means something.
Signed RHP Scott Erickson to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/16]
Announced the retirement of RHP Kevin Brown. [2/19]
As much as Brown's decision to call it quits might elicit all sorts of raspberries from now-frequently disappointed Yankee fans, let's consider their receipt of Erickson as a punishment for any ill will they may still bear, as well as a caution as to what the alternatives can be.
I guess I think of Brown the way some people think of David Cone or Curt Schilling, or the way I think all sentient life on this planet felt about Mike Scott in 1986, which is that he was not somebody you wanted to face in October. I know, some will point to his losing three of four World Series starts, and Yankees fans probably can't see past his getting torched twice by the Red Sox in 2004, but that's hardly fair. Brown was damaged goods at the point that the desperate Bombers threw him out there against Boston, and if he doesn't pitch as well as he did for the Marlins and Padres in the Divisional and Championship Series of 1997 and 1998, those clubs almost certainly don't make it to the World Series in the first place.
But my warm feelings for Brown's performances aside, I know a lot of people will be looking at his as a career that ended on a note as characteristically sour as the rest of it. A good amount of that seems to be the product of Brown's personality, or more properly, the way media interlocutors have portrayed him to the public. I don't know if Brown eats kittens or feeds them cream-fattened mice in his moments of kindness, and I don't especially care, because it was the quality of his work on the mound that matters, and the quality of that work that made several teams winners. I'll look forward to what Jay Jaffe's JAWS system has to say about Brown, but I don't think any of us expects him to be a Hall of Famer.
For grins, let's compare Brown to the other 211-game winners in history, as well as the four contemporaries closest to him in terms of career wins:
Pitcher W-L IP Starts DERA David Wells 227-143 3206.1 447 4.13 Mike Mussina 224-127 3013.0 443 3.62 Kevin Brown 211-144 3256.1 476 3.74 Bob Welch 211-146 3092.0 462 4.26 Billy Pierce 211-169 3306.2 432 4.02 Bobo Newsom 211-222 3759.1 483 4.22 Jamie Moyer 205-152 3139.2 485 4.31 Pedro Martinez 197-84 2513.0 352 2.90For Defense-Adjusted ERA, I'm going with Clay Davenport's All-Time figures. I think it's safe to toss Pedro out of this group; it's interesting to see an all-time great among a few peers, and get a sense of what he's done, but he's only passing through this territory, not taking up residency. Similarly, I think we can expect Mussina to far outstrip Brown. What does that leave us with? Whatever glee we might take from seeing a historical rascal like Newsom show up, I suppose if we had to squint and mistake one guy for another, it would probably be Welch and Brown. Both pitched for pennant winners and for champions, both were key starters on those teams, and if Welch won a Cy Young where Brown did not, Welch didn't have to spend his career contending for it in a world that had Clemens and Maddux and Pedro in it. Neither are what you'd call all-time greats, but you don't just beat people with all-time greats, you beat them with guys like these, or George Earnshaw, or Jose Rijo. I suspect that's good enough for them.
Almanzar's still coping with Tommy John surgery, so he seems only slightly more likely than Bennett to help. Still, he was moderately useful with the Rangers in 2004, and even if Atlanta's a Mazzone-free zone, stranger sorts are having flyers taken out on them this early in camp. I mean, c'mon, people at the Braves' camp are talking up Chad Paronto, and if that isn't a symptom of "it's February, people," I don't know what is. Other guys gunning for the "Give Me My 15 Minutes" Will Cunnane roster spot at the back of the pen include Wes Obermueller, Mike Remlinger, and Travis Smith. While talking about these guys might strike you as unlikely, keep in mind that this team is hoping that Joey Devine is ready and Oscar Villarreal will stay healthy. Out of this mess, if there's a stealth pick for a genuine "out of nowhere" contribution, I think the best choice will be Brad Baker.
Signed 1B-L Scott Hatteberg to a one-year contract. [2/12]
Signed OF/1B-L Adam Dunn to a two-year contract, with a club option for 2008. [2/13]
Signed RHP Luke Hudson to a one-year contract, and then outrighted him to Louisville. [2/16]
Released RHP Josh Hancock, a spring training NRI. [2/18]
I guess I'm in the minority, but I don't see the decision to sign up Dunn to an extension as any particular brand of genius. If anything, such a choice seemed like a necessity. What I'm impressed with is how it's part of a pattern of decisive and immediate action by new GM Wayne Krivsky, and getting this done was part of a number of actions that indicate that there's a professional in charge, and one who isn't afriad to make a few decisions about how he's going to run this organization and what is now his 40-man roster.
Bong? Maybe useful, but he's also coming off of injury, and not rehabbed all the way just yet. So why not outright him, considering that at this time of year, people's 40-mans are generally packed to the gunnels, and rarely have space for other people's incomplete retreading projects? Hancock showed up to camp seriously overweight, and the Reds took that as an opportunity to bleed the roster early on. Pour encourager les autres, as the man once said.
Similarly, there's a defensible logic to signing Hatteberg. Not as a regular, of course--that's somebody else's mistake to have made. But if Dunn's locked in as your regular first baseman, and you're counting on your outfield to be Ken Griffey Jr., Wily Mo Pena, and Austin Kearns, wouldn't it be nice to have a reserve first baseman who might make it worth your while to move Dunn back to the outfield if Griffey or Kearns breaks down for two or three games, or a week? I know this makes for a bad spot for Chris Denorfia, in that it almost certainly condemns him to a return engagement in always-exciting Louisville, but what would you rather do if you had Denorfia, stick him in a reserve role where he might not play much at all, or keep him playing every day until Griffey breaks down completely? Not that Hatteberg is all that good, he has his merits afield, and he can probably handle a role that will involve a lot of pinch-hitting. Better Hatteberg than a Lenny Harris-type, although I admit, by that logic, why not a Roberto Petagine, Mitch Jones, Joe Dillon, or Brian Daubach?
Now, would I like to see Denorfia get a chance? Of course, but it should involve his getting 300 PAs, which seems no more likely for him with this group of players in front of him than it did for Brady Clark here a few years back. That's the mistake I think we all hope Krivsky will avoid, but he has other old business to take care of first, like making Tony Womack somebody else's problem. And while the decisions to haul in McCracken can be taken badly (for good reason), between Dunn and super-utility man Ryan Freel, manager Jerry Narron has plenty of options on the roster as far as outfield reserves without having a "classic" fourth outfielder.
Even if Denorfia is doomed or might only get an early season shot the way that Gabe Gross did with the Blue Jays last year, Narron will still have to sift through Jacob Cruz, Andy Abad, and the always-interesting saga of Tuffy Rhodes in auditions for player usage patterns that might more closely resemble fifth outfielder jobs. Also, if Freel serves as a primary outfield reserve, that might create the playing time the team might want to invest in looking at William Bergolla and Ray Olmedo, at least to the point that they choose to keep only one of them, and try to peddle the other, since they're relatively interchangeable.
Signed INF-R Jesse Garcia to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/18]
Signed RHP Jose Lima to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/14]
Which movie is it where Jason goes to outer space? Why didn't he go to New York first? Why is it that psychotic forces for destruction and terror go straight from the flyover states to the international space station? See, that's where my suspension of disbelief goes right out the window. I mean, I can see where we'd all understand that a maniac bent on random acts of violence had to leave Kansas bleeding after only one season, but why does he have to skip straight to terrorizing cosmonauts? Why not someplace a little more logistically manageable, where you won't stick out (as long as you don't smoke), and where you can get good dim sum? Okay, so rationalizing the decision tree of someone with a machete probably isn't my strong suit.
Actually, come to think of it, as terror-inducing as Lima was last year, he wasn't too terrible in Los Angeles the year before, nor was he likely to commit an atrocity every fifth day in K.C. in 2003, at least not before he broke down. While I don't believe it's all that likely to work out any less gorily than last year, it isn't inconceivable, not if you're willing to believe that Rick Peterson is a pitching coach who can fix some people, and not when the competition for the last spot in the rotation counts Victor Zambrano, Alay Soler, John Maine, Darren Oliver, and, for all we know, Dieter Brock (he's mysterious, imported, and a proven winner, and that adds up to something, right?). And if Aaron Heilman has to go back to the pen because Willie Randolph feels naked without him there or whatever, that's two spots in the rotation, open for your Limas and your axe murderers alike.
It's early on, so let's not try to take too much too seriously, especially where Jose Lima's concerned.
Unconditionally released spring training NRI RHP Joe Roa. [2/14]
Roa showed up to camp forty pounds underweight, which sounds dangerous, although I'm not one of my XXL-wearing colleagues, so maybe I shouldn't talk. But assuming Roa is perfectly healthy, skip baseball, maybe he needs to be making appearances on The View, and trading tips with Star Jones on how to disappear.
Claimed RHP Jason Anderson off of waivers from the Yankees; designated RHP Kenny Baugh for assignment. [2/16]
Not a bad snag for the Pads, and if they probably should have pushed Baugh out before Tucker (see the White Sox comment), I'd choose Anderson over Tucker if it were me making out a 40-man, so no harm done. Baugh cleared waivers and will be in camp as an NRI anyway, so no harm done there either; the Pads are the team that wants to really take a look at the former Rice star, and no need to punish yourself too much for indulging their curiosity. In the two years after being finally made into a full-time reliever, Anderson has struck out 7.6 batters per nine in 128.2 IP in the International League, walked 2.1, and given up 3.5 runs per nine IP. That's not stardom, but it might possibly make for a good guy to have around as your eleventh pitcher in a park like Petco.
Signed INF-B Scott Spiezio to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/17]
Tony LaRussa likes his former Oakland cronies, which you might think spares you someone like Spiezio, who didn't stick until after TLR was gone. But Spiezio finally made it up in 1997, just barely missing the bitter ending when LaRussa and Sandy Alderson tried to win a last... something for owner Walter Haas, a three-year morning-after that nobody would put out of anyone's misery from 1993-95. Spiezio was drafted by and came up through Walt Jocketty's Athletics farm system back then, though; Jocketty didn't leave for the St. Louis job until after the 1994 season. Spiezio probably did play some spring training for LaRussa in 1995, but memory fails. You might hope that he's in no position to challenge for a job, but when the competition for the bottom-of-the-bench infield job involves Hector Luna, Deivi Cruz, and Aaron Miles, do you want to bet that none of them has a bad camp, and spare Cards fans from Spiezio? Hopefully, this is nothing more than an act of kindness for the kid they once knew, and nothing more.
One of Jim Bowden's generally endearing but more usually frustrating habits is his commitment to the concept of second chances. He likes having gotten one, of course, but even before his surprising reincarnation as the GM of the Nationals, he had a big-time hangup on being the dispenser of possible redemption. If you were a former star or scrub, former prospect or faux-prospect, and looking for a shot at recovering some small element of your former fame, or someday having a shot at a better payday, odds were you'd cycle through the Reds organization at some point. Now, perhaps all of this sort of offseason mayhem was given its full range not as a matter of taste, but because the Reds were an organization in which prospects did not show up very often. You do have to stock your upper-level affiliates with somebody, after all. Maybe that was all entirely Marge Schott's fault, the end result of being the GM of an organization that short-changed its scouting and player-development staffs. Maybe not. Maybe that makes a man qualified to run a similarly denuded Nationals organization, but it doesn't necessarily make him the guy to actually fix it. That's where Nats fans have to hope that scouting director Dana Brown delivers where Bowden and his crew in Cincy did not, and there at least, there's reason to believe.
But in the meantime, a worthy question about whether or not Mateo will ever work out, and taking the time to find out, is no different than the team's similar fascination with Alex Escobar or Ty Godwin. Yes, Mateo could be a nifty fourth or fifth outfielder, but more likely, he'll rot in Triple-A, the way that guys like Doug Jennings, Mark Johnson, or Roberto Petagine did playing for Bowden in days long since past. There comes a point where minor league free agents need to realize not all opportunities are created equally, because they are not created by the same men in charge. You might remember Rivera from his days in the Twins' organization, when he was a short right-handed reliever with promise. He's still a short right-handed reliever, a little more nicked up, and he's drifted through a couple of organizations before posting a decent season in Harrisburg last year (70 Ks and 20 BBs in 76.2 IP). Maybe Hector Carrasco's a source of hope for everyone, and you certainly can't help but pull for the guy, but the odds are long now that he's 28 and still not past Double-A. It would help if he were a lefty, but lacking Horgan's good fortune on that score, Rivera's more likely to be left hoping.