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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed DH/1B Cecil Fielder to a one-year contract. [12/19]


The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Angels were confronted
with a very similar choice after the 1990 season, when they let Brian Downing
walk away to bring in Dave Parker to DH. Fielder’s a better player now than
Parker was then, but that doesn’t make this a good decision, and it badly hurts
the Halos at the top of the order while putting both Fielder and Garrett
Anderson in the middle of the lineup. If Todd Greene gets stuck batting seventh
behind those two, he’ll have a hard time driving in sixty runs.

Declined to offer a contract to UT Tony Phillips; signed PH Chip Hale to a
minor league contract. [12/22]

Signed 1B Troy Neel to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/30]

Re-signed minor league free agents 2B/SS Fausto Cruz, LHP Robert Gamez, C Jose
Monzon
, C/UT Chris Norton, and signed minor league free agents RHPs Mo Sanford,
Lou Pote, and Darryl Scott, LHP Jeff Huber, and UT Tom Nevers.


After poking 25 taters in Japan in ’97, Neel isn’t really a great DH/1B option
when someone like Bob Hamelin is freely available; like alot of people, he’s
more useful than Cecil Fielder will be. Neel may simply be asked to take over
Jack Howell’s pinch-hitting role to start off, but when Fielder’s struggles get
ugly, he could start claiming expanded playing time.

In case you couldn’t guess, the rest of this crowd are filler for Vancouver.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Named Dwayne Murphy firstbase and outfield coach. [12/22]

Named Jim Presley hitting coach. [12/23]


Now there’s a couple of trips down memory lane… somehow, I don’t think Murph
is going to help Devo discover the fountain of youth.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Re-signed DH Harold Baines to a one-year contract; designated 3B Willie Otanez
for assignment. [12/19]

Declined to offer contracts to OF/DH Geronimo Berroa and 3B Willie Otanez.
[12/22]


Although Otanez is hardly a special talent, what does Ed Sprague or Mike
Blowers have that he doesn’t? Like Scott McClain, somebody the organization
should have considered rather than moving Ripken to third to sign Mike Bordick.
Berroa has to be asking himself the same sorts of questions, since there’s
essentially no chance that Joe Carter will outhit Berroa in a major league
uniform for the rest of their adult lives, certainly not to the extent that
Carter is somehow considered worthy of a $3.3M contract. In this specific
instance, Gillick has let a sensible approach (avoid big arbitration payouts)
be dictated by an unfortunate passion for JC.


BOSTON RED SOX

Named Dick Pole bullpen coach. [12/19]

Signed CF Darren Lewis to a one-year contract with club option for 1999.
[12/23]


Lewis is still a better player than Damon Buford. Now where did Aaron Sele get
to, anyways? Not one of Duquette’s better moves, even if cornering the market
on people who can’t beat Darren Bragg for a job is for some reason an
organizational imperative. Pole has gotten good marks for his work with
pitchers in Chicago and San Francisco, but was axed by the Giants to make room
for Ron Perranoski.


CHICAGO CUBS

Declined to offer a contract to RHP Kent Bottenfield. [12/19]

Traded CF Doug Glanville to Philadelphia for 2B Mickey Morandini. [12/23]


Sure, it looks like the Phillies were ripped off: Morandini is coming off of a
year where he hit .295/.371/.380, but that was his best year since ’94, he’s
32, and there are questions about his range afield. Losing Glanville is nothing
to be sorry about, obviously, and the Cubs have themselves a viable fill-in at
second until Elinton Jasco or Chad Meyers are ready. Releasing Bottenfield is a
good decision: he was a disaster after the All-Star break, and his eligibility
for arbitration meant that the Cubs were in danger of overpaying for a useful
middle reliever. In all of the ongoing comments that involve “why don’t players
stick with their teams,” keep in mind that an economic engine like arbitration
creates that “phenomenon” just as much as free agency.

Signed OF Matt Mieske to a one-year contract. [12/29]


In Milwaukee, Mieske struggled, endured an injury or two, and Phil Garner and
Sal Bando finally gave up on him. No tears are being shed over his departure,
but the expectation that he was the central player in the Sheffield deal, and a
big year in the California League led to unrealistic expectations. In Wrigley,
he’ll make a dandy platoon mate for Hank Rodriguez, in a similar fashion as
Brian Dayett or Lloyd McClendon. Unfortunately, Hank isn’t as good as Jerry
Mumphrey or Dwight Smith…


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Acquired SS Benji Gil from Texas for RHP Al Levine and LHP Larry Thomas;
designated INF/PH Norberto Martin for assignment. [12/19]


Swapping Karkovice/Fabregas and Guillen for O’Brien/Kreuter and Gil is your
basic good short-term upgrades, both offensively and defensively, with the team
anticipating the eventual breakthroughs of Josh Paul or Mark Johnson at catcher
and Jason Dellaero or Mike Caruso at short. O’Brien/Kreuter and Gil will be
asked to assume the eighth and ninth slots in the order, and the organization
won’t miss Levine or Thomas. I guess we all knew that Paco Martin would be one
of the first guys to suffer from Terry Bevington’s firing, although this was
also a case of the team ducking salary arbitration after finding the player’s
demands were a bit rich for a backbencher.


CINCINNATI REDS

Signed RHP David Weathers; declined to offer contracts to LHP Joey Eischen and
OF Steve Gibralter. [12/21]

Signed LHP Steve Cooke to a one-year contract. [12/22]

Re-signed OF Mel Nieves to a one-year contract. [12/24]


Cooke was cut by the Pirates to avoid salary arbitration, and Jim Bowden was
canny enough to get him quickly. There are still questions about his health,
and he wore down badly in the second half last year, but in the Reds’
situation, he’s a good risk. I have no use for David Weathers, but he is the
sort of pitcher you pick up when the bottom two slots in your rotation are so
wide open that everyone from Burlington on up is a hot spring away from a major
league job.

Signed RHPs Toby Borland, Ramon Fermin, and Daron Kirkreit, and LHP Ricardo
Jordan
to minor league contracts.


More bargain shopping from Jim Bowden. Borland and Jordan are the most likely
to surface as serviceable middlemen in the Reds’ pen, while Kirkreit, and
ex-first rounder and ’92 Olympian, is still strying to put together his career
after blowing out his rotator cuff.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHPs Marcus Moore and Ben Blomdahl and INF Torey Lovullo to minor league
contracts. [12/19]


Stocking Buffalo.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Signed INF Nelson Liriano and OF Sherman Obando to minor league contracts.
[12/19]

Signed 1B Greg Colbrunn to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/23]


The nice thing to say here is that Colbrunn is useful insurance for Todd Helton
in case Helton falls flat on his face or needs to be platooned. The ugly
possibility is that Colbrunn could wind up a zillionaire Big Cat-style, since
all he or any stick-bearing biped needs is regular playing time in Coors.
Colbrunn’s track record as a hitter in recent years is certainly better-looking
than Galarraga’s was in his last few pre-Denver seasons… Obando has the
chance to be recognized as a game-breaking pinch hitter: when healthy, he has a
good power stroke.

Re-signed LHP Bruce Ruffin to a minor league contract with a spring training
NRI. [1/2]


I for one hope Bruce Ruffin either meets up with a fine ghost writer and tells
us his life story, and/or becomes a pitching coach. His epic struggles in
Philly, surviving a brush with Phil Garner in his slag-happy days, and his
first big comeback a mile up all make for a potentially good story. It won’t be
easy to come back again. Baylor tends to have only one kind of workload for his
pen: frequent, short outings. Usually, that doesn’t translate into a good usage
pattern for a guy trying to put his arm and his career back together again, and
Ruffin has never been effective as a strict lefty-getter.


DETROIT TIGERS

Signed Cs Joe Oliver and Joe Siddall, Ps Denny Harriger, Marino Santana, Bill
Hurst
, LHP Pedro Martinez, and OF Andy Tomberlin to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [12/22]


The surprise here is that the Tigers brought in Oliver, who could push Papo
Casanova to the bench while shoving Marcus Jensen to Toledo.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired RHP Eric Ludwick from Oakland for INF Kurt Abbott. [12/19]

Signed C Randy Knorr to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/22]


No sooner do the Fish take heat for the Brown trade than they magically procure
a dandy rotation starter out of thin air for a utility infielder. Ludwick could
be a Dustin Hermanson-sized surprise this year. Knorr is insurance for if/when
the Marlins finally do deal Greg Zaun; otherwise, he’ll have a banner year in
cozy Charlotte.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Declined to offer contracts to CF Chuck Carr and 3B Sean Berry. [12/19]

Traded RHP John Hudek to the Mets for OF Carl Everett. [12/22]

Signed C Marc Ronan, OFs Rob Butler and Dax Jones, LHP Bob MacDonald, and RHP
Bob Scanlan to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [12/22]


Releasing both Carr and Berry are pretty good moves: Berry isn’t worth what
he’d win in arbitration, and the move cements roles on the major league roster
for Richard Hidalgo as the starting CF and Russ Johnson as a part-timer at
short and third (behind Billy Spiers). Picking up Everett as the fourth OF in
exchange for Hudek is a good trade, if a bit of a gamble. After trading
Henriquez and Barrios to Florida, the Astros are thin in bullpen help above AA,
which explains the signings of MacDonald and Scanlan.

Signed RHP Roger Salkeld and LHP Roberto Rivera to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [12/29]

Signed RHP Bryan Harvey to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/30]


Although the Astros shelled out “big” money for Doug Henry, the organization
seems to have adopted a strategy we’ve been speaking out in favor of for years:
you can get all sorts of pitchers to succeed as major league relievers, and you
don’t need to hold on to them because there are always more. Last year, it
worked with Russ Springer, Tom Martin, and Mike Magnante, all of whom have been
waiver fodder before, and all of whom are now considered valuable, somewhat
akin to John Hudek, but better. In the case of this trio, Harvey, Salkeld, and
Rivera are all damaged goods: Salkeld was slagged in the Mariners’ chain, and
hasn’t been right since; Harvey is still trying to get his career back; and
Rivera missed most of ’96 and all of ’97. All of them could pitch when they
were healthy, and between the Astrodome and a manager who isn’t wed to strict
LaRussian usage patterns, any healthy stretch is going to lead to a good
comeback season.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed 1B Hal Morris and SS Orlando Miller to one-year contracts. [12/22]


If Herk Robinson were intentionally trying to make the team worse, he’d be
hard-pressed to do it. It would be hard to find a team with a worse starting
group at first (King), DH (Morris), and short (Miller). Whereas some
commentators are decrying what Dave Dombrowski has done in Florida, Herk
Robinson’s offseason has been devoted to spending money while failing to help
the team in any respect. If anything, the Royals need some “small market”
fiscal responsibility to help them put a better team on the field.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed LHP Mike Myers to a two-year contract. [12/19]


Myers hits the jackpot, as the Brewers shed some more cash in anticipation of
NL-crazed ticket sales. He’s a useful if uninspiring LH setup man on a team
lacking one.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Signed 2B Brent Gates to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI;
outrighted the contract of 1B Scott Stahoviak to Salt Lake City; invited
Stahoviak, Cs Matt LeCroy, Jayhawk Owens, and Chris Turner, LHP Travis Baptist,
RHP Shane Bowers, SS/P? Esteban Beltre, 2B Ryan Lane, UT Jon Shave, OF Keith
Legree
, and 1B/OF Jamie Ogden to spring training. [12/23]


Signing University of Minnesota star Gates could be considered another sign
that Chuck Knoblauch is gone. I’m sad to see Stahoviak go, not because I think
he’s ever going to be a good regular 1B, but because I’ve enjoyed watching him
since his glory days at Creighton. Esteban Beltre has apparently been converted
to pitching, where he’s got a fastball that hits over 90, but how much he can
actually pitch is unknown.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Hired Salomon Torres as a scout and minor league pitching coach.


More than anything, this is just here to let you know his active career appears
over.


NEW YORK METS

Signed LHP Brian Bohanon to a one-year contract; signed UT Shawn Gilbert and
RHPs Rick Trlicek and Derek Aucoin to minor league contracts. [12/19]

Signed SS Luis Lopez and C Todd Pratt to one-year contracts. [12/20]

Traded OF Carl Everett to Houston for RHP John Hudek. [12/22]

Signed 3B Craig Paquette to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/23]

Signed UT Jim Tatum to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[12/26]


Paquette came to the right team, in that moving Ed Alfonzo to short to get
Paquette’s bat in the lineup makes perfect sense when the alternative is the
execrable Ordonez. Of course, there are four dozen better alternatives to Craig
Paquette, but that’s another kettle of fish.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed LHP Graeme Lloyd to a two-year contract and DH Tim Raines to a one-year
contract. [12/19]

Signed RHP Darren Holmes to a three-year contract. [12/22]


There’s been some harsh criticism of the Holmes signing, because he’s coming
off of his worst year and he’s going to be 32. However, he’s also coming off of
Planet Coors, and his nastiest stuff is his hard-breaking curve. Since one line
of thinking has it that breaking stuff is most affected by the altitude, it
should make for an interesting experiment to see how much better Holmes pitches
at sea level over a full season. If he succeeds, we’ve learned something, and
if he fails, its George Steinbrenner’s money.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Traded RHP Eric Ludwick to Florida for INF Kurt Abbott; signed LHP Buddy Groom,
RHP Billy Taylor, and SS Raffy Bournigal to one-year contracts. [12/19]

Signed Cs Damon Berryhill and Izzy Molina to minor league contracts with spring
training NRIs. [12/22]

Signed OF Shane Mack to a one-year contract. [12/24]


Let me get this straight: the A’s got the best years of Kerwin Moore’s life (or
did we miss those?), and Kurt Abbott’s waning years for the rest of Eric
Ludwick’s career? With the added bonus of three years given to Mike Bordick to
play everyday? And the up side of all of this is… ? Signing Mack can either
be interpreted as a nice gesture on what’s shaping up to be a veteran-heavy
bench (with Blowers and Magadan), or a roster that would make the Angels
jealous of liver spots in green and gold.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Traded 2B Mickey Morandini to the Cubs for CF Doug Glanville. [12/23]

Signed INF Mark Lewis to a one-year contract. [12/23]

Signed INF Alex Arias to a one-year contract. [12/26]


The best way to put this is that the Phillies dumped salary without hurting the
team. Morandini isn’t a good bet to be an effective player for years to come,
and as unlikely as Glanville is to hit well, he is a good defensive
centerfielder. Certainly, Mark Lewis will be more than adequate in replacing
Morandini, although he (or Arias) could also see considerable time at short with
Rex Hudler (or Arias) at second, when it turns out that Desi Relaford is not
going to be much better than Steve Jeltz and Marlon Anderson shows he’s not even
Phillie quality (much less major league quality) at the position.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Designated 2B Roberto Mejia for assignment.


It seems appropriate that the organization that teased and baited people with
Geronimo Pena for years had to acquire and eventually give up on Mejia as well.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed P Masashi Kiyono to a minor league contract. [12/22]

Signed RHP Steve Reed to one-year contract with a club option for 1999. [12/24]


The Rockies blundered in letting Reed walk, and he should be an outstanding
setup man for Robb Nen. Assuming Dusty doesn’t wear him out by July, like he
did with the rest of his pen in ’97, of course.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed 2B Jeff Berblinger and SS Rico Rossy to minor league contracts.


Both worthwhile pickups, since each might win the utility infield job with the
Mariners, since Sheets and Gates are gone, and Jeff Huson isn’t much
competition.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed LHP Scott Aldred, RHPs Dave Eiland, Daniel Garbay, and Scott Lewis, C
Tim Laker, and OFs Alex Cabrera and Matias Carrillo to minor league contracts.
[12/19]


The Rays stock their AAA affiliate, although Lewis has an opportunity to pitch
in middle relief for the big league squad.

Designated LHP Ryan Karp for assignment.


Perhaps the quintessential summation of how the D-Rays ran their draft, in that
they’re already letting their picks go. Karp is still very capable of
surprising people as a LH reliever.


TEXAS RANGERS

Traded SS Benji Gil to Chicago for RHP Alan Levine and LHP Larry Thomas.
[12/19]

Re-signed C Bill Haselman to a one-year contract; declined to offer contracts
to RHPs Roger Pavlik and Wilson Heredia. [12/20]

Signed 3B Tom Quinlan and OF Joe Hall to minor league contracts. [12/22]

Signed RHP Roger Pavlik to a one-year contract and 3B Scott Cooper to a minor
league contract with a spring training NRI. [12/23]


The Rangers got frustrated with Gil, and gave him up for two pedestrian
relievers/failed prospects from the Sox. Both Levine and Thomas are failed
starters with big assortments for straight relievers. Both could be useful, but
thats pretty paltry compared to the hopes the organization once had for Benji.
Quinlan and Cooper are both insurance should anything happen to Fernando Tatis,
but they (and Joe Hall) should be exactly the kind of minor league veterans
that 89ers fans have learned to expect year after year.