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American League

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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Signed RHP Justin Speier to a four-year, $18 million contract. [11/19]

Added 3B-R Matt Brown, OF-R Terry Evans, and C-R Bobby Wilson to the
40-man roster; acquired RHP Chris Resop from the Marlins for RHP Kevin
Gregg. [11/20]

Talk about setting the market-giving an effective setup man this kind of
money for that length of time might make “Speier Money” every bit the
catch phrase that “Benson Money” was two winters ago in describing what
the pricing on third starters was. Don’t get me wrong-I’ve always been a
Speier fan, and not simply because he has the best birthday date ever. But
that kind of money for a
useful setup man
is dangerous, not least when we’re talking about a
guy who just turned 33. Also keep in mind that beyond a certain elite,
relievers are pretty unreliable commodities, and while Speier’s always
been handy, it’s worth noting he wasn’t more important to the
2005
Blue Jays than a luminary like Vinny Chulk, and in
2004
, he was very much part of the problem in a pen that was a
disappointment.

Now, maybe the Angels see Speier as another one of their particularly
wicked brand of relievers, a righthander with nasty movement and a tricksy
delivery. Speier not only throws hard, he backs up the heat with a good
splitter and a slider that can come and go. But as things stand, he’s the
fourth quality righthander in a
pen that already has K-Rod,
Scot Shields, and Brendan Donnelly, as
well as Hector Carrasco in a long relief role. However, Carrasco’s already
signed to big money, and Rodriguez, Shields, and Donnelly are all eligible
for arbitration. If I had to hazard a guess, I think signing Speier is
about cost certainty and about affording GM Bill Stoneman the
opportunity to deal from strength (and ditch a pending bit of
arbitration).

Service time and arbitration was certainly an element of the decision to
deal Gregg, although the fact that he was a somewhat redundant swingman
after the Carrasco signing last winter certainly helped make him that much
more available. Getting Resop back in return feeds the Angel sweet tooth
for hard-throwing position player conversion projects (a la Jason Bulger),
plus it brings in a kid with options. This was only Resop’s third full
season as a pro hurler, so it will definitely be interesting to see if he
pans out. There’s a reasonable chance that this could be a steal, assuming
Resop masters a breaking pitch that’s a convincing enough set-up for his
plus fastball.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Signed LHP Jamie Walker to a three-year, $12 million deal; signed LHP John
Parrish to a one-year contract. [11/21]

Blech. Maybe the annual value is less than what the Angels gave Speier,
but Walker isn’t really that valuable a commodity, and if this is yet
another pathetic exercise in proving to the rest of the market that the
Orioles will spend money, it’s yet another demonstration that their taste
in free agents is pretty terrible. Walker wasn’t a particularly key
component of the Tigers‘ pen, he’s just your basic lefty situational guy,
and spending major money on this sort is no more sensible now than it was
with Buddy Groom.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Re-signed 2B/SS-L Alex Cora to a two-year, $4 million deal. [11/17]

Activated LHP Abe Alvarez from the 60-day DL, and outrighted him to
Pawtucket (Triple-A); added RHP Kyle Jackson and LHP Phil Seibel to the
40-man roster. [11/20]

Keeping Cora as something of an insurance policy at short seems like a
pretty reasonable early-winter move to me. If Dustin Pedroia can’t hack it
at short, the Sox won’t be short a shortstop, and if having him spares the
Sox from making an expensive mistake on somebody like Julio Lugo or David
Eckstein, so much the better. The market for shortstops is exceptionally
weak, and the last thing you want to do is wind up as the latest employer
of Royce Clayton. As things stand now, Theo Epstein can take a chance that
Pedroia has the range for short, or he can stick Cora in the ninth hole
until something better comes along, or he can go with an offense/defense
combination employing Pedroia for his bat and Cora for his glove. (Dustex
Codroia? Sounds like another one of Jabba’s second-rate gunsels hired out
of Semi-Slimy Goons ‘R’ Us.) Sox fans can wishcast a deal with the Brewers
for Billy Hall, but I’d suggest it might make more sense to go
down-market, and see if you could pick up somebody like J.J. Hardy or
Alberto Callaspo on the cheap.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Added LHPs Heath Phillips and Carlos Vasquez, RHPs Oneli Perez and Dewon
Day, and INF-R Andy Gonzalez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Added OF-R Ben Francisco and RHP J.D. Martin to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

DETROIT TIGERS
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Added RHP Virgil Vasquez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Acquired C-R Jason LaRue and cash from the Reds for a PTBNL; added LHPs
Danny Christensen and Neal Musser and RHP Carlos Rosa to the 40-man
roster; designated 2B-R Donnie Murphy and LHP Juan Cedeno for assignment.
[11/20]

The nicest thing you can say about LaRue is that he might fetch something
of value at the deadline if his bat bounces back at all, but that’s about
the full extent of his prospective value to the Royals. LaRue’s hitting
has been a bit strange over the last few years, in that he hasn’t done all
that well hitting in a good hitter’s park while doing much better on the
road (.252/.351/.457 over the last three years), so while I wouldn’t
normally expect him to do better in a tougher home run park, I suppose it
isn’t inconceivable. The really good news is that the Reds are reportedly
paying nearly $3 million of LaRue’s $5.2 million salary from 2007, but
given that the only thing really at risk here is that the Royals gave up
somebody of value (which seems unlikely) and John Buck‘s potential stardom
(even less likely), I could see this paying off if it’s about trying
to flip LaRue at the deadline in July. If it isn’t, then it’s really just
random activity, and perhaps a little too much like Allard Baird’s
unfortunate pickups of stale placeholders before the 2006 season.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Added LHPs Ricky Barrett and Alexander Smit, RHP Oswaldo Sosa, and CF-L
Denard Span to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Added LHP Chase Wright, RHP Jeff Kennard, and OF-L Bronson Sardinha to the
40-man roster. [11/20]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Signed RHP Scott Dunn to a one-year contract; added RHP Marcus McBeth to
the 40-man roster. [11/20]

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Added 2B-R Michael Garciaparra, OF-L Bryan Lahair, OF-B Mike Wilson, and
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith to the 40-man roster; designated RHPs Travis Chick
and Jorge Campillo for assignment; acknowledged the loss of OF T.J. Bohn
on waivers to the Braves. [11/20]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Added OF-B Elijah Dukes, 2B-B Elliot Johnson, and RHP Mitch Talbot to the
40-man roster; released RHP Doug Waechter. [11/20]

TEXAS RANGERS
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Added RHP Alexi Ogando and LHP A.J. Murray to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

Signed OF-L Frank Catalanotto to a three-year, $13 million deal, with a
club option for 2010. [11/21]

Bringing ‘Cat’ back seems sensible enough for a roster that has a lot of
open questions about who plays where in next season’s outfield, but his
limited power makes him your basic extra guy, and not a critical hitter in
a lineup that’s now that much more dependent on seeing Hank Blalock and
Brad Wilkerson bounce back. For this sort of money, it’s not readily
apparent that he’s going to be that much better than Jason Botts as a
hitter, so while he’s a filler player for left and leading off (against
RHPs, at any rate), this might end up hurting more than helping the
Rangers if they think their work here is done. They may end up having to
hope Freddy Guzman is ready in center if they don’t land any of the major
free agent center fielders, at which point, what sort of lineup is that?
Mark Teixeira, Michael Young, and a lot of wishcasting seems like a great
way to risk finishing behind the Mariners.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Signed DH-R Frank Thomas to a two-year contract. [11/17]

Added C-R Robinzon Diaz to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

As disappointed as I might be personally that Thomas won’t be back in the
green-and-gold, I can’t begrudge the man taking the money. The contract’s
particularly interesting, in that it comes with a $9.12 million signing
bonus, a $1 million salary for 2007, $8 million for 2008, and a $10
million option for 2009 that vests if the Big Hurt manages to avoid enough
aches and pains to log 1000 PA in the first two years, or 525 PA in 2008.
So, more than $28 million on the table? Of course he took the money, and
more power to him. I definitely like what this should mean for the Jays as
far as mounting a challenge in 2007, or during Vernon Wells: The Final
Chapter. This is a team built around a lot of risk-can Thomas and Troy
Glaus stay healthy? Can Aaron Hill play short even remotely effectively?
Will A.J. Burnett make thirty starts for the second time in his career?
There’s enough possible upside to legitimately contend-well, except for
Hill at short. That’s just an adaptive dead-end as doomed as the dodo.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Added LHP Evan MacLane, RHP Jailen Peguero, 3B-B Brian Barden, 2B-B Emilio
Bonifacio, INF-R Alberto Gonzales, 2B/SS-L Danny Richar, OF-L Carlos
Gonzales to the 40-man roster; designated LHP Randy Choate for assignment.
[11/20]

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Claimed OF-R T.J. Bohn off of waivers from the Mariners; added RHP
Jonathan Johnson and OF-L Gregor Blanco to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

It says a lot about what sort of talent might be available in the Rule 5
draft if a team already sees Bohn as worthy of a 40-man roster spot.
Already pushing 27, he’s a modestly useful fifth outfield type if things
break his way; expecting more would be foolhardy. It’s not impossible that
he’d make a nice platoon partner for Kelly Johnson or Ryan Langerhans in
an outfield corner, but that’s sort of what Matt Diaz is already here for,
and unless the club did something as bold as sending Jeff Francouer down
to get a handle on the strike zone before Opening Day, there isn’t a lot
of space to squeeze Bohn in. This probably wasn’t the best use of a spot
on the 40-man, but Bohn’s toolsy, and you know that’s the sort of thing
that gets the Braves worked up.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Signed OF-R Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract; added
RHP Rocky Cherry and LHP Clay Rapada to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

Is Soriano really this valuable? This may well be a situation where
the Cubs are trying to impress their prospective Owners-TBNL, and perhaps
also a matter of keeping their latest expensive ex-famous manager fat and
happy over the promise of the season to come. He did rate
16th in the NL in Equivalent Average
, and only two of the
people ahead of him are free agents. However, both of those two-J.D. Drew
and Barry Bonds-play outfield corner slots, and while both have durability
questions and probably aren’t the most popular people around the game,
either one of them could have been equally handy for a team looking to
improve, either would have cost less than this, both would have leavened a
righty-heavy lineup with their lefty bats, and neither come with the
questions Soriano does as far as whether or not he can remain at this
level next year, let alone for the next eight. His spike in walks was
heavily dependent on his receiving 16 free passes, and he wouldn’t be
likely to get those hitting in the middle of the Cubs lineup, and perhaps
less still since it looks like he’ll be leading off in a lineup that has
Cesar Izturis and the pitcher’s slot generating outs a’plenty ahead of
him.

That’s not to say that he’s going to make Cubs fans remember Candy
Maldonado. He’s going to put runs on the board, and he’s going to crank a
goodly number of extra-base hits and stolen bases. But he’s also likely to
see his OBP drop down below .330 from the start, and you can imagine where
it’s going to wind up by the time he’s 38. I like having him, but not at
these terms. To his credit, he made significant progress in his first
season as an outfielder, showing solid range and (despite some early
threats about his enthusiasm for the job) a lot of ability and hustle, minimizing the inevitable mistakes he made as a newly-minted outfielder.
If the Cubs are serious about looking at him in center, that might make
the money a little more sensible, especially if he eventually gets a grip
on the position. He’s been durable, and he’s athletic enough to possibly
manage in center. If you’re a Cubs fan, you might get revved about his
hitting better in daylight this past season-except he didn’t do likewise
the year before.

In the end, I think what you see is what you get-the problem is that even
if you call him a center fielder and he eventually becomes one, is he
going to hit well enough over eight years to justify the money, and there,
the answer’s pretty much an automatic “not bloody likely.” I like this
move a lot more than going after Mark DeRosa or overpaying Aramis Ramirez,
but put them all together, and you’ve got a lineup likely to go begging to
live up to what its components did just last year, let alone put enough
runs on the board to make up for a still-uncertain rotation.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed SS-R Alex Gonzalez to a three-year contract through 2009, with a
mutual option for 2010; signed LHP Mike Stanton to a two-year contract
through 2008 season with a club option for 2009; traded C-R Jason LaRue to
the Royals for a PTBNL; added OF-L Chris Dickerson and RHPs Calvin Medlock
and David Shafer to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

Perhaps it surprises even me, but I like getting Gonzalez on this
particular team in this particular ballpark. The last A-Gonz standing has
pop that might play particularly well in Lindner’s Folly, and he might
help compensate for Edwin Encarnacion‘s work-in-progress fielding at the
hot corner. Signing him for $14 million over the three years they’re
committed to (with a $6 million option and an especially manageable
$500,000 buyout for 2010) seems pretty sensible, especially in light of
the relatively slender options on the shortstop market this winter, and
especially considering Julio Lugo’s expectations as a free agent. What
makes less sense is signing Stanton for anything more than a one-year
deal, and for as much as $5.5 million (and perhaps $7.5 million if they
pick up the option). This is a team that already has Bill Bray and Rheal
Cormier around, and paying out this sort of money for a third lefty
probably shouldn’t have ranked quite so high on Wayne Krivsky’s wish list.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Added RHPs Ryan Speier and Darren Clarke and SS-B Jonathan Herrera to the
40-man roster. [11/20]

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Acquired RHP Kevin Gregg from the Angels for RHP Chris Resop; acquired
RHPs Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens from the New York Mets for LHPs Adam
Bostick and Jason Vargas; added LHP Paul Mildren to the 40-man roster.
[11/20]

I’m not sure I get the motivation for going out of my way to get Gregg,
although he’s a useful enough utility pitcher to put in the back end of
either the rotation or bullpen, depending on whichever of the kids pans
out next spring. The question is why you go out of your way to add him in
particular, when he’s arb-eligible, and do the Angels the additional favor
of tossing them a young reliever with some upside. Perhaps it’s a way of
getting a brownie point with the Angels, not exactly a bad idea when
they’ve got moderately useful center field types in their system, and
you’ve got Reggie Abercrombie.

The exchange with the Mets is a little more interesting, in that it’s possible that both Owens and Lindstrom could make next year’s big league bullpen-they both have the velocity, and Lindstrom’s former promise as a starting pitcher died in the always-difficult quest for a quality second pitch. Balanced against that is the suspicion that Vargas might be the best player in the deal, but
taken in tandem, I like what Larry Beinfest has pulled off here. The Fish
have wound up with a better pair of relievers than Resop, and a better
veteran insurance policy for the rotation than Scuffy Moehler was last
year.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Added 2B/3B-B Brooks Conrad and OF-L Mike Rodriguez to the 40-man roster.
[11/20]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Announced the retirement of 3B-B Bill Mueller. [11/17]

Signed INF-R Nomar Garciaparra to a two-year, $18.5 million contract. [11/20]

Added RHPs Eric Hull and Zach Hammes and LHP Mike Megrew to the 40-man
roster. [11/21]

The money for Nomar seems a bit rich, given that it isn’t incentive-based
at all, he’s not likely to go Paul Molitor on us and reverse his recent
fragility, and seeing as he’s becoming a first baseman in his dotage. In
his own defense, Ned Colletti talked about “his versatility, mental
toughness, clutch performances, and leadership capabilities.” The problem
with that is if Nomar’s playing first, that’s not very versatile, and
missing only a quarter of the season when he’d missed more than half in
each of the previous two seasons doesn’t really let you count DL as a new
position on his resume. At least I found the last two qualities nice of
Ned to note in Nomar, but that’s because I consider it karmic revenge of
sorts for Larry Lucchino’s hatchet job on Nomar’s reputation within the
game back in 2004.

The money doesn’t seem anything to get too embittered over-that’s just
Colletti spending other people’s money after getting all bent out of shape
over being spurned by the lissome J.D. Drew. The lesson that money can’t buy you
love
was probably wasted on Ned, but heck, I didn’t see the guy when
I was in Haight-Ashbury back in the Sixties. (Of course, my mind
was almost entirely focused on munchies, not that that sets me apart, but
at least I was in swaddling clothes or whatever baby fashions existed back
then, since swaddling clothes probably went out with derbys.)

The particular pity of it all is that Nomar’s going to get to be the guy
at first, forcing the team to see if James Loney can handle the outfield.
That’s a bit of wasted effort, because Loney’s the better fielder at
first. Nomar seems the sort who could hurt himself tripping over the bag,
running into an ump, or managing to wind up underfoot when Ryan Howard‘s
thundering down the line. Sure, he could always hurt himself running into
a wall as an outfielder, but a left fielder generally sees the ball only
two or three times per game. As long as you do something like hire Albert
Belle to coach Nomar utilizing his timeless outfield manual, “If You’re
Sessile and You Know It, Clap Your Hands,” I’m sure it would all work out
for the best.

NEW YORK METS
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Signed OF-R Moises Alou to a one-year contract with a club option for
2008; formally announced the decision to not take up the club’s 2007
option on LHP Tom Glavine, making him a free agent; acquired LHPs Jason
Vargas and Adam Bostick from the Marlins for RHPs Henry Owens and Matt
Lindstrom; added OF-R Carlos Gomez to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

I like the risks involved with the decision to patch over their left field
situation with a short-term deal for Alou. The deal’s for $7.5 million per
year, with a $1 million buyout of 2008, a reasonable balance of risk and
reward that affords the Mets no more certainty than employing Cliff Floyd
did. That might seem strange considering that Alou’s six and a half years
older, but Floyd managed only one healthy season in the last four. The
additional plus is that Alou’s potential upside is probably higher than
Floyd’s, in that he’s been able to slug better than .550 two of the last
three years, but the additional risk is that Alou’s at an age where things
might just stop working. That just reinforces the point that the length
and the money seem right, and while the signing does create the
possibility that Omar Minaya might be able to shop Lastings Milledge, the
length doesn’t make trading the prospect at all necessary. If Milledge
learns something about the strike zone in New Orleans, and gets brought up
during the odd multi-week stretches when Alou breaks down, that sounds
like a win-win.

As for the deal with the Marlins, Vargas is an interesting pickup, the
sort who might wind up at the back end of the Mets’ rotation if things
work out. He’s polished enough as a former college star, but his fastball
isn’t extraordinary, and his nice run at the end of 2005 leads Kevin
Goldstein to suggest it was a once-around-the-league success story more
than an indication that he’s got a lot of promise. Maybe he’s a Rick
Peterson project that actually works out, and maybe he’s just another one
of the Mets’ (sometimes Peterson-inspired) random fancies that doesn’t
work out. Bostick’s a
bit on the wild side
(80 walks in 142 innings between Double- and
Triple-A, against 139 Ks), but he’s not an especially hard thrower,
relying instead on a curve and a fastball that’s more of a cutter in terms
of its movement if not velocity. He isn’t seen as a high-upside guy, but
he might grow up to be like Vargas-somebody who could step into the back
end of a rotation. Still, that’s two guys who might be quality relievers
for two guys who might not be anything more than fifth starters.

The problem seems to be that the Mets have a lot of those guys, and not a
lot of front men for their 2007 rotation. The decision to not pick up
Glavine’s option, particularly in this market, seems all the more
foolhardy. This team is already very much built to win now, so why not
take your chances on one year with Glavine, versus offering a multi-year
deal to Barry Zito or Jason Schmidt? Maybe I’m not appropriately
enthusiastic about the two biggest names in the free agent starting
pitcher pool, but for the money either’s going to cost, I’d rather take my
chances with Glavine. Instead, the Mets might have to spend major money on
the famous people, still find themselves a bit short, and have to
take shopping Milledge that much more seriously. Choosing that much
uncertainty over a one-year commitment to Glavine seems like a pretty
significant miscalculation.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Signed 3B/1B-R Wes Helms to a two-year, $5.45 million contract. [11/17]

The market for third basemen is perhaps even uglier than it is for
shortstops, so Helms was certainly in a position to shop around for the
best possible bid for his getting to start. In that, Philly’s a perfect
match, as he’ll almost certainly get the opportunity to start 100-120
games. While he won’t hit anything like last season’s .329/.390/.575 in
full-time play, and his glovework at third won’t win any awards, he’s an
improvement at the plate on Abraham Nunez, and the price to go out and get
him is a fraction of what it seems Aubrey Huff is going to expect. Helms
apparently had larger offers available to him, but with less guaranteed
playing time-I guess I’m always impressed when a guy takes the chance to
play over the money. It isn’t like he’ll starve, and how many times do you
get to actually play when you’re Wes Helms? The guy’s already past
30-here’s hoping he does more than give the Phillies their money’s worth.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Added OF-L Nyjer Morgan, LHP Dave Davidson, and RHP Romulo Sanchez to the
40-man roster; released C-R Carlos Maldonado. [11/20]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Added SS-R Luis Cruz and RHP Leonel Rosales to the 40-man roster. [11/20]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Added 2B/SS-B Eugenio Velez and RHP Osiris Matos to the 40-man roster.
[11/20]

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Added LHP Troy Cate, RHPs Dennis Dove and Blake Hawksworth, and OF-L Cody
Haerther to the 40-man roster. [11/20]