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February 28, 2006
Signed RF-R Richard Hidalgo to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/26]
I suppose the next order of business is for the city of Baltimore to erect a statue in the harbor, perhaps of Gary Roenicke, with the motto "Give us your aging, tired right-handed bats, yearning to be politely compensated in the absence of more lucrative opportunities." Don't get me wrong; I'd much rather take a roll of the dice with Hidalgo than wishcast Sammy Sosa into someone who might ever again be marginally useful. Hidalgo's deal is simple enough: $1 million if he makes it, and the right to walk away on March 26 if things aren't shaping up to his liking. He won't be 31 until the end of June, and if he's not going to be the star we all thought he might be after his 2000 season, he can still play a solid right field and has the arm for it. Last year's bad year in Texas was, to a great extent, weighted down by his flailing against LHPs: .157/.231/.301 against them, versus .244/.310/.458 against the normal people. If Hidalgo can keep doing even that well against right-handers, while starting to put some hurt on lefties, he might even mount a run at Comeback Player of the Year, and possibly even become a valuable commodity for the Orioles to swap away at the end of July. Whatever the outcome, this is a good risk and a worthwhile expense, so from beancounters to common fans, everybody should be satisfied.
With those considerations in mind, and especially in light of his likely good glovework in right, I'd certainly be happier to have Hidalgo around than try to get by playing both Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar in the outfield. With Javy Lopez crowding the DH situation, Hidalgo, Conine and Millar are going to have to square off against Jay Gibbons for PAs at first base or either outfield corner, but if Gibbons sits against most lefties, and allowing for some injury time for everybody concerned, this could work out adequately enough as a temporary solution. The challenge, both for GM Mike Flanagan and for manager Sam Perlozzo, will be to make room for Nick Markakis and Val Majewski when the time is right. This is not the crew of alternatives, nor the team, nor the division, with which to get carried away with the present.
Signed 1B-R Bucky Jacobsen to a minor league contract. [2/25]
As a Buckybacker would be quick to tell you, their greatest hero ever missed all of last season to a knee injury, so he might yet get back into his tights and rescue cats, fight crime, and bop the occasional home run. While he isn't going to endanger the playing time of either Paul Konerko or Jim Thome any time soon, given that Thome's fragile, and the White Sox's main alternative might be Ross Gload, Jacobsen has chosen a great place to be. Chicago's Triple-A affiliate is Charlotte, a great place to paste a few home runs, so he not only has an opportunity to get what's left of his career back on track, he might even have an outside shot at some playing time should somebody famous get hurt.
Signed OF/1B-L Raul Ibanez to a two-year, $11 million contract extension. [2/23]
That locks Ibanez up through... 2008, in case anyone was really worried about that. What a move like this really cinches is any doubt of whether or not Bill Bavasi was a victim of unhappy circumstance in 2001, or whether he isn't simply the descendant of the designers of the White Ship, the Mary Rosethe Vasa, the Titanic, or the S.S. Minnow. Hey, at least the theme's aquatic, so in the course of resurrecting the Mariners, I suppose it makes perfect sense to go out and find a great ... um, mariner.
Locking up the old and marginal might be this country's future, but it should not have to be Seattle's lot in the immediate future, not when the division doesn't look like one where this team will be contending over the remainder of Ibanez's career. If Beattie is really convinced that all he can attract from the open market are the likes of Carl Everett, then you have a problem that being able to count on having Ibanez on the cover of the team's media guide will not solve. Among the 275 players who had 300 or more PAs in either league last year, Ibanez ranked 99th in MLVr. That's counting shortstops, catchers, and Cristian Guzman. Think Ibanez is going to get better after this year, when he'll be 35 and 36? Think that's going to be worth $11 million? Wanna buy a bridge? The Mariners need flexibility to help them in their future, not mediocrity in the lineup or senescence in the front office.
Signed RHP Brian Boehringer to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/25]
Ball-Four-inger is four years removed from his last useful season (2002). While I know you can never have too much pitching, when guys like Todd Wellemeyer are out of options, why tease Dusty Baker with another bit of bullpen beef jerky (aged, tough, and unappetizing)? Because if there's one thing the Cubs have to have sorted out about Baker by now, it's that he's a man who loves his beef jerky. While this is probably just a chance for Boehringer to go out on his feet, on this club, there's always a danger of more than that being at stake.
Signed OF-R Ernie Young to a minor league contract. [2/23]
No, he's not getting a taste of big league camp, and yes, after more than 1400 minor league games and almost 6000 minor league at-bats, you might think Ernie deserves more than this. As is, Young's the subject of one of my favorite nights at the ballpark formerly named for Charles Comiskey, when I had to explain to an eight year-old girl sitting with her Sox fan parents directly in front of me that rooting for another team, or another player, wasn't fundamentally evil. It was 1996, grim times for A's fans, but the kid seemed to learn something, and it was one of those nights when all sorts of fun stuff happened. Young made a couple of great plays in center, John Wasdin got smacked around, and our entire section booed quiet a group of bikers who had been spending the game asking Rickey Henderson about his sexual preferences. Except for that bit about Wasdin, it was a nice example of good folks doing good things.
I know, I'm being goofily sentimental about this particular fifth outfielder. Welcome to my fandom, but it's spring training, and a bit of nostalgia can catch up with any of us. I don't know if I'll have the chance to make it to a PCL game this summer, let alone make it to Colorado Springs, but here's hoping Ernie bops for the Sky Sox as he has for Tucson, Portland, Memphis, Omaha, Edmonton, and Tacoma. For those of you keeping score, he only has to play for Nashville, Iowa, Oklahoma, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Round Rock, Salt Lake, Sacramento, Fresno, and Las Vegas to fill out his affiliation swing through the entire league. Bet that has him regretting spending the last three years with Toledo and Buffalo over in the International League, doncha think? Okay, so maybe not, but the guy has to have dreams of getting back, and considering that the Rockies have an outfield that includes two former first basemen (Ryan Shealy and Brad Hawpe), a make-believe starting center fielder (Cory Sullivan), and Matt Holliday, it isn't a bad place to take your chances when you're a guy like Young. On the other hand, keeping in mind that this is the organization that may well drive Jorge Piedra to tattoo "He Hate Me" on his forehead, maybe where those chances for Young are concerned... ? Not so much.
Signed C-R Tom Wilson to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [2/25]
Not that Wilson is much of a catcher, and keeping in mind that he's already 35, the Fish don't have a great set of options beyond starter Miguel Olivo. Setting aside his uselessness, notional top reserve Matt Treanor has a shoulder injury (to his non-throwing shoulder) to recover from. "Alternatives" like Brad Davis or Ryan Jorgensen don't really merit the term. While you or I might be gung-ho for Josh Willingham, we have no idea whether or not he'll strike new manager Joe Girardi's fancy, or if Girardi's self-perception of his own value as a defensive catcher won't make him think that Willingham hits too well to catch, or too well to be one of his catchers. I'm not saying that's a logical way to think about Willingham, but with Girardi, we have no idea what his preconceived notions on players are. What we do know is that Girardi's made some loud comments about leaving Mike Jacobs at first base, so at least initially, that idea is off the tactical menu. So, given Treanor's performance and health, it's pretty easy to see where Wilson might not just make for a nice bit of insurance, but actually challenge for the job of backing up Olivo.
Had the announcement that RHP Darren Dreifort has retired show up in the organization 'In' box. [2/23]
This is one of those things, like getting back a holiday card that you sent to what you'd thought was a previously famously happy couple, only to find out they're divorced. The fact of the event itself has to be conveyed at some point, but that doesn't make anyone feel good about it, and if, in the end, everyone's appreciation of how sunny things seemed to be were completely wrong, that's what happens when you let elaborate fantasies of how good somebody else must be get the better of you. Dreifort "retires" a wealthy man, more famous for that than for his pitching, and if his performance wasn't really much more than Jason Jennings at sea level (complete with the ability to hit; spare arm not included), it wasn't his fault that Kevin Malone was nuts in offering him the sun, the moon, the skies, and several stars to be named later. When he was on, Dreifort was fun to watch, a power pitcher who could amuse with the occasional home run hit to help himself, and if we've all missed that player for a long time, here's hoping that he can find a happier way to spend his days in the future.
Not that it's a huge move, but relative to last season, the Brewers seem to be getting better in all sorts of ways, even in their choices for fifth outfielder. Where last year's squad had to get by with Chris Magruder, this year's Brewers squad has Romano only vying for the role. On this year's team, Romano has to take a number and wait behind Gabe Gross and possibly Corey Hart, players who would be getting bigger prospect billing if they were in somebody else's camp. Romano's lost a good chunk of his career to some of the most seriously screwed-up franchises in the game, but for an outfield reserve, he has a few of the preferred skills: he makes consistent contact with some line-drive sock, and he can run and catch and bunt well enough to help, or at the very least well enough to impress Ned Yost, who generally seems to like to stock his benches with polished pros and not project players.
Some people got worked up about Dallimore a couple of years ago, which is what seems to happen to a lot of guys who might seem to have that Keith Lockhart or Rex Hudler vibe going for them, the overlooked minor-leaguer who finally caught a break and made something of it. Needless to say, it didn't really work out that way for Dallimore. Some people let his Fresno numbers get the better of them, so it really wasn't Dallimore's fault that he was being pasted up as somebody's latest favorite scrappy white dude.