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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Released pitchers Jeff Juden and Rich
Robertson
. [11/16]

Re-signed catcher Matt Walbeck to a two-year
contract. [11/17]

Signed first baseman Mo Vaughn to a six-year
contract with club option for 2005. [11/25]


The Angels were the team to make Mo Vaughn the most
well-paid player in the majors, signing him for $80
million. It’s interesting that they’ll pick up a
guy who was almost certainly driving drunk, but they’ll
try to cut Tony Phillips for being caught with some
coke.


Anyway, soapbox aside, the Angels will boast a lineup
that includes Vaughn, Darin Erstad, Tim Salmon (if his
arches hold up), and Troy Glaus. Erstad will be moving
back to the outfield, and the Angels are reportedly
shopping Jim Edmonds around; it would be smarter of
them to get rid of the overrated Garret Anderson, but
there’s not much talk of that. What this means for
Todd Greene is unclear; if he can catch, he’ll split
time with Walbeck, but he reportedly won’t be able to
do that again, so there may be no room at the inn for
him. Another team which needs a power hitting corner
OF/1B/DH type would be wise to make a play for him.


I wouldn’t want to be counting on Mo Vaughn for six
years, but at least in the short term, the Angels have
netted one of the best.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed pitcher Greg Swindell to a three-year
contract. Signed first baseman Greg Colbrunn
to a two-year contract. [11/11]

Traded pitcher Bob Wolcott to the Boston Red
Sox for a PTBNL. [11/11]

Signed pitcher Todd Stottlemyre to a four-year
contract. [11/19]

Signed pitcher Armando Reynoso to a two-year
contract with club option for 2001. [11/24]

Signed pitcher Randy Johnson to a four-year
contract. [11/30]


All these pitcher signings must be sending visions
of contention dancing like sugarplums through Jerry
Colangelo’s dreams, but the money he’s blowing on a
state-of-the-art staff could really be better spent
elsewhere. Consider the context: the D-Backs are
only a second-year team. There’s no better time to
lay a foundation for an Atlanta Braves type of run
than the present, when expectations are low and the
fan base is more accepting of a losing record. Why
not get acquainted with youngsters like Travis Lee,
Karim Garcia, Brian Anderson, and 1998 staff hero
Omar Daal (162.2 IP, 2.88 ERA)?


Instead, the top four pitchers on Arizona’s staff are
all over 30 and making a ton of money. This is a move
that wouldn’t be bad to make if you’re a team with an
offense, like the Mariners, but the D-Backs are saddled
with decaying players like Jay Bell and Matt Williams
and a scar of an outfield. Their offense was terrible
in 1998, scoring only 665 runs despite playing half their
games in Bank One Ballpark, a very good hitter’s park,
and it doesn’t figure to get much better in 1999–especially
if they sign Steve Finley, as is rumored, to play CF.


The real irony in all of this is that Daal, who outperformed
every offseason signee last year, may be drummed out of the
rotation. He’s only 26, and an expansion team should
reasonably value him far above the Armando Reynosos of the
world, but he’ll probably be shipped off for Randy Myers
or something, to provide the tough lefty the pen needs.
Ye cats, this is going to be a disappointing season in the
Valley of the Sun in 1999.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed outfielder Brian Jordan to a five-year
contract. [11/23]

Re-signed catcher Eddie Perez to a two-year
contract. [11/25]

Re-signed shortstop Ozzie Guillen to a two-year
contract. Signed outfielder Otis Nixon to a
one-year contract. [12/1]


The signings of Nixon and Jordan indicate Ryan Klesko
isn’t long for Atlanta, which will leave the Braves with
Andruw Jones, Jordan, Nixon, and Williams in the outfield
mix for 1999. This could well be the best defensive
set of flycatchers in the league. Nixon and Williams
figure to make a dynamite top-of-the-order platoon in
left field, and keep the position warm for George
Lombard in 2000. The Braves can use a leadoff hitter,
and Nixon and Williams should deliver.


Perez had a career season in 1998, backing up Javy
Lopez and catching Greg Maddux. Hopefully the Braves
didn’t pay him to do it again, but he’s a reliable
backup. Meanwhile, Ozzie Guillen still blows, but
at this point he’s almost certainly better than
Rafael Belliard, so what the heck?


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed pitcher Mike Timlin to a four-year
contract. [11/12]

Signed outfielder Albert Belle to a five-year
contract. [12/1]

Traded pitcher Armando Benitez to the New York Mets
for catcher Charles Johnson. [12/1]


Belle’s first press conference as an Oriole was all
sweetness and light; anyone remember how the exact same
thing happened when he signed with the White Sox two years
ago? He’s still an awesome offensive force, and should
replace the mediocre B.J. Surhoff’s contributions with
no problem whatsoever. He’s going to have to, since the
O’s lost Rafael Palmeiro to Texas, are carrying two
shortstops in the starting lineup with Cal Ripken Jr.
and Mike Bordick, and who knows who is going to replace
Robbie Alomar at second?


Baltimore jumped into the Mets’ offseason tradefest by
picking up Charles Johnson to catch for them. Johnson
is a great defender, but he’s never been a great hitter
and is running out of time to have the productive peak
it looked like he’d have out of college. The team got
rid of Public Enemy #1 in trading Armando Benitez, which
opens up the closer spot for the newly wealthy Mike
Timlin. This isn’t a great idea from a talent standpoint,
but Timlin isn’t Jose Mesa or anything either. Chris
Hoiles appears to be left out in the cold, since the
O’s obviously didn’t acquire Johnson to share the catching
duties; as Rob Neyer pointed out, Hoiles could easily have
a Mike Stanley-esque second career as a designated hitter.
Hoiles can still hit; the main difference between the two
seems to be that Hoiles has never been held in particularly
high regard with O’s management. If the O’s use a platoon
of Hoiles and Pickering at first base this year, they should
be pleased with the results.


BOSTON RED SOX

Traded a PTBNL to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher
Bob Wolcott. [11/11]

Signed second baseman Jose Offerman to a four-year
contract with club option for 2003. [11/13]

Designated outfielders Billy Ashley and Jimmy
Hurst
, pitchers Rich Garces and Carlos Valdez
and catcher Mandy Romero for assignment. [11/19]

Named Jim Robinson scout and Ray Crone Jr.
national cross checker. [11/24]


Letting Mo Vaughn, Joey Belle, and Bernie Williams
escape their grasp for Jose Offerman probably isn’t what
the Red Sox faithful were hoping for this offseason.
Offerman got a ton of money ($7.5M per) from Red Sox
management, but he’s an excellent offensive infielder
who can handle second. He should be kept there; it’d
be a mistake to use him at first, as the Royals had a
habit of doing before they went out and locked up Jeff
King for the job. With Garciaparra and Valentin, plus
a generic first baseman (Will Clark?), the Sox will
have a very good offensive infield. They’ll need it,
because their outfielders remain underwhelming.


The Billy Ashley days are over in Boston. He should
have no problem finding a job somewhere–he’s still a
reasonable choice as a cheap pinch hitter/DH. Rich
Garces pitched very well most of the season for the Sox,
and he’s only 27, so he could have a nice season
with someone next year if he’s healthy.


It’s nice to see Crone Jr. mentioned. The job of
national cross checker is a chronically underappreciated
one, and Crone should do a heck of a job for the Sox.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed first baseman Scott Stahoviak, pitchers
Steve Gajkowski, Andrew Lorraine
and Scott Watkins, outfielder Allen Battle
and catcher Alan Zinter to minor-league
contracts. [11/13]

Claimed pitcher Elvin Hernandez off waivers from
the Minnesota Twins. Purchased the contracts of pitchers
Kyle Farnsworth, Phillip Norton, Richard
Barker
, Ray King, and Brian McNichol,
outfielder Roosevelt Brown and infielder Chad
Meyers
from Triple-A Iowa. Outrighted pitchers
Steve Rain and Don Wengert to Triple-A
Iowa. [11/19]


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Traded outfielder Mike Cameron to the Cincinnati
Reds for first baseman Paul Konerko. [11/11]


A very nice pickup for the Pale Hose, who have a lot
of offensive ground to make up after losing Albert Belle
to free agency. Cameron was very disappointing in his
second season in Chicago, and Cincinnati’s surplus of
young 1B/DH types who can hit allowed them to trade him
for Konerko, who is three years younger and is still on
track for a great career. He figures to start the season
with the Sox, and hopefully he won’t spend another day
in the minors.


CINCINNATI REDS

Traded first baseman Paul Konerko to the Chicago
White Sox for outfielder Mike Cameron. [11/11]

Signed outfielders Wonderful Monds and Decomba
Conner
, pitcher Brandon Puffer, catchers Raymond
Brooks
and Ryan Luzinski, first baseman Juan
Thomas
and third baseman Joseph Salzano to
minor-league contracts. [11/19]


Cameron will probably be the Reds’ starting center
fielder. He’s a good prospect who is awesome defensively,
which any team can use in CF. The Reds probably didn’t get
equal value for Konerko, but they didn’t exactly need him
with Casey slated to play first for them. Cameron will
likely be flanked by Dmitri Young and Michael Tucker, with
Jeffrey Hammonds in the mix somewhere and Reggie Sanders
still a good pick to be somewhere else come 1999.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Outrighted pitcher John Smiley to Triple-A Buffalo. [11/11]

Traded outfielder Brian Giles to the Pittsburgh Pirates
for pitcher Ricardo Rincon. [11/18]

Signed second baseman Roberto Alomar to a four-year
contract with club option for 2003. [11/24]


Giles will finally get a chance to start in his first season
away from Cleveland; he is a good hitter in the prime of his
career, but the Indians aren’t exactly hurting for bats.
Meanwhile, Rincon likely becomes the top left-hander in the
Indians bullpen, where he’ll be backed up by Paul
Assenmacher, because you can never have too many lefties.
It’ll be pretty surprising to see Ron Villone in Cleveland
at all next year.


Alomar went where everybody thought he’d go, and gives the
Indians a vaunted all-All-Star starting eight. Unfortunately,
not all of these guys are still All-Star caliber players.
After years as one of the top second basemen in the league,
Alomar had his problems with injuries and ineffectiveness
in 1998. He’s still young enough to make this contract worth
the Indians’ while.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Outrighted infielder Jason Bates to Triple-A Colorado
Springs. [11/19]


Bates couldn’t hit in Colorado, so the conclusion that he
won’t hit anywhere is probably a reasonable one to draw.


DETROIT TIGERS

Signed pitcher Masao Kida. Designated pitcher Greg
Keagle
for assignment. [11/23]

Signed pitchers Felipe Lira and Brian Looney,
catcher Joe Siddall and outfielders Rickey
Cradle
and Ben Candelaria to minor-league
contracts. [11/24]


Masao Kida is the newest import from the Japanese League.
He’s rumored to have some good stuff, but hasn’t consistently
translated that into good performance in his career so far.
However, it’s tough to imagine that he’ll be worse than Greg
Keagle, so score one for Randy Smith.


Felipe Lira returns to the only team he ever had any success
with. If he recaptures the form that he had in 1995, when he
pitched 146.1 innings of 4.31 ERA ball for the Tigers, he’ll
be a useful member of the staff. At 26 years of age, he’s
still young enough to do it.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Traded pitcher Oscar Henriquez to the New York Mets
for catcher Jorge Fabregas and cash. [11/20]

Traded catcher Gregg Zaun to the Texas Rangers
for a PTBNL or cash. [11/23]

Outrighted infielder Josh Booty, catcher John
Roskos
, outfielder Bruce Aven and pitcher
Rob Stanifer to Triple-A Charlotte. Released
infielder Brian Daubach. [11/25]


The Marlins approach the Rule V draft with a bounty of
draftables, which explains their shuffling some of them
around. In the process, they become the fourth team
since the end of the 1997 season to employ Jorge Fabregas
as their starting catcher. Fabregas isn’t really any
better than the departed Gregg Zaun, and I’m surprised
Dombrowski would bother with him.


I guess this means Josh Booty is free to go back to school
and play football. That ought to make him pretty happy…


HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed third baseman Ken Caminiti to a two-year
contract with club option for 2001. [11/15]


San Diego wasn’t all that interested in resigning Caminiti,
so he took less money to move back to Houston, reuniting
him with his good buddies Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.
He’s still a premier player when he’s healthy; unfortunately,
he hasn’t been healthy very often lately, and his defense
took a huge hit last year with his reduced mobility. The
Astros aren’t paying him all that much ($9.5M), so it
wasn’t neccessarily a bad deal for the Astros, but he’s
pretty clearly not the player he was in 1996.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Traded third baseman Bobby Bonilla to the
New York Mets for pitcher Mel Rojas. [11/11]

Signed infielder Juan Castro to a two-year
contract. [11/12]

Signed pitcher Alan Mills to a three-year
contract. [11/13]

Traded catcher Charles Johnson and outfielder
Roger Cedeno to the New York Mets for catcher
Todd Hundley and pitcher Arnold Gooch. [12/1]


The Dodgers picked up the suddenly ineffective Mel
Rojas, as rumored, from the Mets for Bobby Bonilla.
This was a trade of two old players who are expensive
and relatively ineffective–Bonilla’s got more left
than Rojas at this point, but superprospect Adrian
Beltre is ready to go at third base. Alan Mills will
help out at swingman in 1999. He’s a competent, if
unspectacular, reliever.


The big news, of course, is Charles Johnson’s
departure from Los Angeles and Todd Hundley’s
arrival. Johnson was a big disappointment with
Los Angeles after coming over from Florida in the
Mike Piazza trade, and he probably won’t be missed
too much, especially if Hundley can regain his former
status as one of the top hitting catchers in baseball.
Hundley says his elbow is 100%; if he performs
like he did last year, the Dodgers are going to
be sorely disappointed, but this was a worthwhile gamble
for them to take. Cedeno was royally screwed with the
big contract White got; given White’s presence, he was
a reasonable guy to trade, though the Dodgers would
have eschewed White entirely and started with Cedeno
if they were smart.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded pitcher Dan Naulty to the New York Yankees
for third baseman Allen Butler. [11/16]


The Twins avoid arbitration with Naulty by moving him
to the Yanks. They weren’t able to get Mike Powell
in return, which would have been slightly absurd.


NEW YORK METS

Traded pitcher Mel Rojas to the Los Angeles
Dodgers for third baseman Bobby Bonilla. [11/11]

Re-signed pitcher Masato Yoshii to a two-year
contract with club option for 2001. [11/12]

Reinstated general manager Steve Phillips. [11/16]

Re-signed pitcher Dennis Cook to a three-year
contract. [11/18]

Traded catcher Jorge Fabregas and cash to the
Florida Marlins for pitcher Oscar Henriquez. [11/20]

Traded catcher Todd Hundley and pitcher Arnold
Gooch
to the Los Angeles Dodgers for catcher Charles
Johnson
and outfielder Roger Cedeno. [12/1]

Traded catcher Charles Johnson to the Baltimore
Orioles for pitcher Armando Benitez. [12/1]

Signed third baseman Robin Ventura to a four-year
contract. [12/1]


Good heavens, that’s a lot of activity. The Mets are the
big winners in the offseason so far. The Ventura signing
lets Bonilla take a corner outfield spot, which he can
handle defensively, and allows the excellent Edgardo
Alfonzo to move to second, which in turn moves Carlos
Baerga on to another team. Meanwhile, the team turns
Todd Hundley into Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno, who
could lock up centerfield for years if he’s given the
job. Benitez should provide what Rojas couldn’t in the
bullpen.


The Mets were borderline playoff material last season, and
they’ve now netted themselves solid upgrades at third
base, second base, left field, center field, and in
the bullpen in the offseason. They probably paid too
much for Cook and Ventura, but they’ll be the serious
playoff contenders next year that they weren’t this year.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Re-signed pitcher David Cone to a one-year
contract. [11/11]

Traded third baseman Allen Butler to the Minnesota
Twins for pitcher Dan Naulty. [11/16]

Extended the deadline to exercise their option on
outfielder Darryl Strawberry for the fourty third
time. [11/25]

Re-signed outfielder Bernie Williams to a seven-year
contract. [11/25]


At the last minute, Bernie Williams spurns the Red Sox
to return to the Yanks. I thought he’d get more money than
he ended up getting (though he didn’t do too badly), but
seven years is an awfully long time to have Williams (or
anyone) under contract. He’s the complete package in
center field, though, and retaining him leaves the Yanks
with basically the same team that swept through the rest
of the league in 1998.


Cone re-signed for a very odd one-year deal. He’s certainly
looking for a repeat of last year. The Yanks also put
off making a decision on Strawberry yet again; this supposedly
helps him work out his financial difficulties, though I’m
not sure how this would work (unless they’ve agreed to
pay him whatever he turns out to be in debt for or something).


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed third baseman Olmedo Saenz to a minor league
contract. [11/19]

Re-signed pitcher Tim Worrell to a one-year contract. [11/20]


Saenz was signed out of the White Sox system, and represents
Eric Chavez’ only threat to a starting job next year. He’ll
likely end up backing Chavez at third and playing some DH.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Released pitcher Calvin Maduro. [11/19]

Traded pitchers Ricky Bottalico and Garrett Stephenson
to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Ron Gant,
pitchers Jeff Brantley and Cliff Politte and cash. [11/19]


What the heck does a team like Philadelphia need Ron Gant for?


Then again, what do they need Ricky Bottalico for?


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed second baseman Mike Benjamin to a two-year
contract. [11/17]

Traded pitcher Ricardo Rincon to the Cleveland Indians
for outfielder Brian Giles. [11/18]


Giles is just what this offense needed. A power-hitting left
fielder who will run Al Martin out of town, Giles isn’t too
expensive and is good for a few more years. The same can’t
be said of Benjamin. It’s laudable that the Pirates realize
that Tony Womack isn’t the answer at second, despite all the
stolen bases, but Benjamin is a useless player as anything
but an end-of-the-bench guy–and those guys shouldn’t get
two-year contracts.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Traded outfielder Ron Gant, pitchers Jeff Brantley and
Cliff Politte and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for
pitchers Ricky Bottalico and Garrett Stephenson. [11/19]

Signed outfielder Eric Davis to a two-year contract.
Signed pitcher Scott Radinsky to a two-year contract with
club option for 2001. [11/19]


The Cards make a nice move in ditching Ron Gant’s decaying corpse
and plugging in Eric Davis. Davis was awesome last year, and he’ll
contribute to a fine Cards outfield with J.D. Drew and Ray Lankford
this year. Meanwhile, Bottalico hasn’t been effective lately, but
he’s young and still throws heat–and Gant and Brantley are making
lots of money. The Cards made a nice salary dodge here.


Radinsky’s comeback from cancer has been quiet but impressive with
the Dodgers, and he’s an underrated lefty that will throw 80 good
innings for the Cards this season.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Re-signed outfielder Ellis Burks to a two-year
contract. [11/12]

Re-signed outfielder Marvin Benard to a two-year
contract. [11/24]


The Giants plan to shift Burks to right field, where he
has less of a chance of hurting himself. Meanwhile, the team
is planning on using Benard in center (along with incumbent
Stan Javier and minor league vet Armando Rios), but he had
the season of his life last year (.322/.396/.434) and
shouldn’t be expected to repeat it. He’s a marginal major-league
player at best, but then again the Giants always seem to have a
guy who fits that label in their outfield somewhere.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed pitcher Jose Mesa to a two-year contract with
club option for 2001. [11/12]


Wait, what? Jose Mesa? For God’s sake, what use is this
move? The Mariners seem determined to wash the best years of
Griffey and Rodriguez (and their supporting cast) down the
drain. If there’s a guy who pitched like he was in the
Mariner pen without actually being there last year, it was
Jose Mesa most of the season. To sign him knowing the proclivities
of Lou Piniella, and to expect him to do good for your team, is
either fiendish or idiotic, depending on who (if anyone) is
paying off Woody Woodward.


TEXAS RANGERS

Re-signed shortstop Royce Clayton to a four-year
contract. [11/30]

Signed first baseman Rafael Palmeiro to a five-year
contract. [12/1]


Palmeiro proves that you can go home again, spurning the
O’s after five good years there to re-sign with Texas. The
Rangers made a dumb move ditching Palmeiro for Will Clark
in 1993, and they’ll benefit by replacing the injury-prone
Clark with Palmeiro. After a weak 1997, he rebounded
nicely last year; whether he’s worth
nine million per is a reasonable question, but he’ll team
with Gonzalez and Greer to give the Rangers a tough middle
of the order, and can be counted on for 150 games a season,
which isn’t something that could be said for Clark.


Royce Clayton decided to stick around after coming over
from the Cardinals during the playoff drive. He can’t hit,
but neither could anyone the Rangers were playing at short
before they picked him up. At least he’s steady defensively.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Agreed in principle to a 10-year lease with the Toronto
SkyDome. [11/26]


Hmmm. This deal appears to give the Jays "small
market status" until the year 2008. Good for them.

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