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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]