keyboard_arrow_uptop


ANAHEIM ANGELS

Re-signed pitcher Jack McDowell and infielder Randy Velarde
to one-year contracts. Signed infielder Craig Shipley to a
minor-league contract. [12/7]

Designated pitcher Allen Watson for assignment. [12/12]

Acquired pitcher Mark Petkovsek from the St. Louis Cardinals for a
PTBNL (who turned out to be catcher Matt Garrick). Designated catcher
Ben Molina for assignment. [12/14]

Signed pitcher Tim Belcher to a two-year contract with club option
for 2001. [12/18]


Re-signing McDowell and picking up Belcher gives the new-look Angels an
old, mediocre rotation of Chuck Finley, Ken Hill, Belcher, and two from a
pile of bodies including Omar Olivares, Steve Sparks, McDowell (if he can
pitch), Jason Dickson (if he ever makes it back), and Jarrod Washburn (if
they decide to wise up). That’s a slight improvement over anything
involving Allen Watson, though Finley can be expected to backslide a bit;
then again, some of us have been expecting Finley to bomb for years, and he
hasn’t done it yet. The Mouse’s revamped staff isn’t great, but depending
on how the outfield situation shakes out (and how effectively the Mariners
remove themselves from contention), it should still be good enough to make
a serious run at the division title next year. Why would anyone trade for
Mark Petkovsek? Well, Pep Harris is out for the year, and Mike James is
damaged goods, and it isn’t like Garrick is a good prospect.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed outfielder Steve Finley to a four-year contract. [12/7]

Traded pitcher Felix Rodriguez to the San Francisco Giants for
future considerations. [12/8]

Acquired pitcher Bart Miadich from the Boston Red Sox to complete
the Bob Wolcott trade. [12/14]

Signed outfielders Pete Incaviglia and Ernie Young, infielder
Scott Coolbaugh, pitchers Dan Carlson, George
Glinatsis
, Al Kermode and Matt Ruebel, catchers Marcus
Hanel
and Izzy Molina and first baseman Desi Wilson to
minor-league contracts. [12/15]


For the second season, general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. sets the D-Backs
up with an old, questionable-offense glove merchant in center field. There
are differences, of course. Devon White was only under contract for a
year, and ended up having a good season, whereas Steve Finley is signed or
four years and $20 million, and is coming off a very weak offensive
campaign in San Diego. Finley is still a good defensive player, but
whether he’s a better option in center than David Dellucci (plus twenty
million bucks in the bank) is a very open question.


The D-Backs will be flanking Finley with Bernard Gilkey and Luis Gonzalez,
after dealing problem child Karim Garcia to the Tigers for Gonzalez.
Garcia was a disappointment with the Diamondbacks last year, but he’s still
only 23 by MLB’s records, and will be better than Gonzalez as early as this
year. A good move for the Tigers, while the Diamondbacks ink another
essentially average offensive player for their 1999 team.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Re-signed pitcher Rudy Seanez to a one-year contract. [12/3]

Signed pitcher Mike Remlinger to a one-year contract. [12/4]


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Re-signed outfielder B.J. Surhoff to a three-year contract with club
option for 2002. [12/4]

Signed second baseman Delino DeShields to a three-year contract. [12/4]

Signed first baseman Will Clark to a two-year contract. [12/5]

Signed pitcher Xavier Hernandez to a two-year contract with club
option for 2001. Signed pitcher Doug Linton to a minor-league
contract. Released outfielder Willie Greene. [12/17]

Signed outfielder Rich Amaral to a two-year contract. Signed
pitcher Ricky Bones to a one-year contract. [12/21]


It’s an odd move to re-sign Surhoff right after signing his ostensible
replacement in Albert Belle. Surhoff will likely be moving to right field
to make room for Belle; the best idea, of course, would be to move him back
to third, Ripken to short, and Mike Bordick to the waiver wire or playing
for Herk Robinson, but that’s not going to happen.


Delino DeShields should fill in admirably for Roberto Alomar, and for a
reasonable price. He’s recovered from his Los Angeles slump and played
well in St. Louis over the last two years, and should be fine at the top of
the order for the Orioles. Will Clark’s signing with Baltimore gives them
a semi-useful hitter at first base, but the rationale for signing was
flawed on two counts. First, as is always the question with Clark, how
much time he won’t be on the DL is uncertain. Second, he’s blocking Cal
Pickering, who is potentially one of the great power hitters of his
generation, and who’s nearly ready. All in all, the Orioles are doing
everything in their power to turn into Gene Autry’s Angels, signing the
aged and infirm to compete with more sensibly-run organizations.


Xavier Hernandez’ signing left Willie Greene out in the cold, which seems
to underscore how little the Orioles understand what talent has value.
Xavier Hernandez and people like him or as good as he is are available for
non-roster invitations year-in and year-out, while people like Willie
Greene have talent. How far has Greene’s star fallen? From hitting 26
home runs and walking 78 times with the Reds in 1997 to this? Besides the
fact that he gives the O’s yet another superior option to playing
Bordick at short and Cal Ripken at third, the guy’s still only 27. That
he’s left without a job while guys like Tim Bogar (or Rich Amaral) get
two-year deals is lunacy.


BOSTON RED SOX

Signed pitcher Mark Portugal to a one-year contract with club option
for 2001. [12/9]

Released pitcher Carlos Reyes. Signed pitchers Brad Clontz,
Tim Harikkala, Kirk Bullinger, Ryan Karp, and Greg
Mix
, catcher Creighton Gubanich, outfielders Garey Ingram
and Victor Gonzalez and infielder Israel Alcantara to
minor-league contracts. [12/14]

Claimed pitcher Steve Connelly off waivers from the Oakland
Athletics. [12/16]

Signed pitcher Mark Guthrie to a two-year contract. [12/19]

Acquired pitcher Tomokazu Oka from the Yokohama Baystars of the
Japanese Central League. [12/22]


What is it about Dan Duquette, anyways? Movement for movement’s sake has
consistently been one of his operating philosophies, but there’s an
essentially pathetic quality when he starts signing second-rate knockoffs
on his more successful signings. Adding an injury-prone old right-handed
starter with great control is nice when it’s Bret Saberhagen and you have a
reasonable hope for a worthwhile balance of the cost and benefits, but Mark
Portugal isn’t as good as Saberhagen, and isn’t going to be. Guthrie is a
nice veteran lefty in the pen, but like Portugal, signing him isn’t exactly
the smartest way to use the money that didn’t get spent on Mo Vaughn,
especially when there’s very little reason to expect that Ron Mahay can’t
be every bit as effective as Guthrie for a tenth of the expense. Remember
each and every one of the minor league free agents signed here; the chance
that each and every one of them will be a Red Sock during the regular
season for at least 36 hours is extremely good.


CHICAGO CUBS

Re-signed outfielder Henry Rodriguez to a two-year contract. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Scott Sanders to a one-year contract. [12/2]

Re-signed infielder Gary Gaetti and outfielder Glenallen Hill
to one-year contracts. [12/7]

Signed catcher Benito Santiago to a one-year contract. [12/9]

Re-signed pitcher Steve Trachsel to a one-year contract. Traded
outfielder Brant Brown to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Jon
Lieber
. [12/15]


The moves do almost nothing, in themselves, to improve a team that needs
major improvements, so let’s focus instead on what we can draw from them.
Rather than accept responsibility for putting Brown on the field to do
something he couldn’t do well (or better than alternatives on the bench),
Riggleman and Lynch scapegoated him and ran him off. They got excellent
value for him in Lieber to round out what is, on paper, an adequate
rotation: Kerry Wood, Trachsel, Kevin Tapani, Lieber, and Terry Mulholland.
When Jeremi Gonzalez heals up (by sometime in July), in theory they’ll have
a nice set of choices. I say "in theory" because I won’t be surprised if
Tapani burns out this year, and if Riggleman really puts his "rubber arm"
rhetoric about Mulholland to work, he’ll be burned out as well. Lieber has
also been tender-armed in the past, which makes me pessimistic about the
Cubs’ one strength, reliable starting pitching. As for the offense,
re-upping with Gaetti and Rodriguez, and dragging in Santiago’s carcass,
only makes for improvement because it means Scott Servais is gone, and
Tyler Houston will hopefully play less. That isn’t really significant
improvement, especially compared to the gains made by the Astros or
Cardinals or even the Reds. What’s basically pathetic about the Cubs’
decisions to reinforce their pitching staff at the expense of their offense
is that their one organizational strength is minor league pitching, with
several solid-looking starters already at Double-A or higher, and there
isn’t a good major league position player above A-ball. When Sosa or
Morandini aren’t having their best seasons, you can imagine how things
should turn out.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Extended the contract of manager Jerry Manuel through 2001 with club
option for 2002. [12/10]


Manuel had lots of things to say about almost any subject under the sun
except his organization and its management, so the Sox were more
than happy to reward him for it. Jerry Manuel’s relentless good-natured
optimism is of the stripe that would have made him a great spin doctor for
the Hindenburg ("It was important to learn that safety was an issue").


CINCINNATI REDS

Sold first baseman Roberto Petagine to the Yakult Swallows of the
Japanese Central League. [12/2]

Traded catcher Guillermo Garcia to the Florida Marlins for pitcher
Manuel Barrios. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Steve Avery to a one-year contract with club option
for 2000. [12/11]

Signed second baseman Mark Lewis to a one-year contract. Released
first baseman Eduardo Perez. [12/12]


And so goes an golden opportunity for the Reds to shoot for scoring oodles
of runs while spending very little money doing it; "small market" teams are
exactly the ones that should be signing and taking advantage of
underappreciated offensive stars like Petagine, and instead they’re goofing
off with Jeffrey Hammonds. The hope is that Avery can be another great
ex-Braves rehab project, like Kent Mercker before him, but the signing of
Mark Lewis is a miserable decision. Is he better than Pokey Reese? Sure,
but so is Brian Raabe or David Doster or a dozen other Triple-A veterans
who also happen to be better than Lewis. Like the Phillies before them,
the Reds will come to the unfortunate realization that Lewis is an
expensive waste as far as temps go.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed pitcher John Burke to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Re-signed outfielder Mark Whiten to a one-year contract. [12/8]

Re-signed pitcher Jerry Spradlin to a two-year contract with club
option for 2001. [12/16]

Re-signed pitcher Steve Karsay to a one-year contract. [12/28]


COLORADO ROCKIES

Re-signed catcher Kirt Manwaring to a one-year contract with club
option for 2000. [12/16]


I thought the Rox had the right idea when they let Manwaring test the
waters this offseason; this indicates I was mistaken. I exaggerate only
slightly when I say that any price is too much to pay for Kurt
Manwaring.


DETROIT TIGERS

Signed catcher Bill Haselman to a two-year contract. Waived
outfielder Trey Beamon. [12/14]

Signed pitcher Brian Moehler to a three-year contract. [12/17]

Signed outfielder Gregg Jefferies to a two-year contract with club
option for 2001. Traded outfielder Luis Gonzalez to the Arizona
Diamondbacks for outfielder Karim Garcia. [12/28]


Jefferies is just what the Tigers don’t need; he’s expensive, he
can’t play a position, and the Tigers already have Gabe Kapler and Juan
Encarnacion to look at in the outfield (not to incumbent right fielder
Bobby Higginson). And what is the market for injury-prone 32 year old
outfielders with no pop anyway? I can’t imagine it’s close to 2.5 million
per year. Keep in mind we’re talking about a team that valued Bip Roberts,
so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. With the Luis Gonzalez deal, the
Tigers looked like they had the right idea–clear out your vets, because
you aren’t going to be contenders–which makes the Jeffries signing all the
more frustrating (especially in light of their netting another player that
Jefferies shouldn’t be playing in front of, Karim Garcia).


The Brian Moehler deal was a nice one, and the Tigers should prosper for
it. I don’t think there’s much question that a guy with the history
Moehler has will be interested in some job security, and that makes
signings like this one very sensible from the organization’s point of view.
Hopefully, Moehler will build on his very solid season and repay the
Tigers’ faith in him.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Announced the resignation of president Don Smiley, effective
December 31st. [12/16]


Submitting bids for team ownership and failing to back them up with the
requisite cash is no way to run a baseball team, and in light of John
Henry’s pronouncements and Dave Dombrowski’s smarts, it looks like the
Marlins are better off with Smiley in the rear-view mirror.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Re-signed infielder Tim Bogar to a two-year contract. [12/4]

Signed pitcher Shane Reynolds to a three-year contract extension
through 2002. [12/10]


The Astros are wallowing in the success of their rousing 1998 like pigs in
slop, and there’s no uglier example of pork barrel players on a roster than
Tim Bogar and his shiny new contract. This is a guy who hit .154/.208/.212
last season, and the worst part of it was that it wasn’t exactly a
surprise. Sure, he’s got an adequate glove, but is that worth any more
than the major league minimum? Apparently the Astros think so; Bogar’s
making $1.1 million over the next few years to weakly ground out and glove
some balls. That’s about $750,000 too much, and that’s money they could
have thrown at a player with some actual leverage (Randy Johnson, anyone?)


I’ve got a similar, but less caustic, beef with Shane Reynolds; he’s a nice
pitcher, but I’m not sure he’s worth the considerable dough the Astros are
giving him. Is a 3.51 ERA in the Astrodome really worth $21.5
million–especially since the guy wouldn’t have been a free agent for two
years anyway? Reynolds is now 30, and has had serious arm problems. Were
I the ‘stros, I would have left his previous contract in place and gone for
a guy who would give more immediate help in the quest to get Craig Biggio
and Jeff Bagwell a title while they are still productive (say Randy
Johnson, perhaps. Or did I already?).


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Re-signed pitcher Jeff Montgomery to a one-year contract. [12/7]

Claimed pitcher Dario Veras off waivers from Boston. [12/7]

Signed shortstop Rey Sanchez to a one-year contract. [12/10]

Signed catcher Chad Kreuter to a one-year contract. [12/14]

Signed pitchers John Cummings, Chris George, Erik
Hanson
, Rick Krivda, Ricky Pickett, Joe Roa,
Kennie Steenstra, and
David Swartsbaugh, catchers Henry Mercedes and Tim
Spehr
, infielders Ray Holbert, Scott Leius, and Rico
Rossy
, and outfielders Steve Gibralter, Les Norman,
Scott Pose, and Joe Vitiello to minor-league contracts.
[12/17]

Signed pitcher Alvin Morman to a one-year contract. Signed pitchers
Don Wengert, Jaime Bluma, Brian Bevil and Jamie
Walker
to minor-league contracts. [12/21]


Herk’s racing against the clock in his quest to keep the Royals in their
less-than-mediocre straits. At least you have to hope so before he brings
in any more inadequate or inappropriate veteran additions. What’s the
point of bringing in Rey Sanchez for more than play money, or bringing in
Chad Kreuter when you already has Mike Sweeney, and that already goofs off
with Sal Fasano? Omaha’s GM must have left Herk off of his Christmas card
list. How else do you explain signing Henry Mercedes or Don Wengert? On
the other hand, the Royals signed enough junk (pitchers) that some of it
might stick: Krivda has had his moments, as have Roa or Steenstra.
Anything’s a step up from Ricky Bones.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed pitcher Kevin Brown to a seven-year contract. [12/12]


The most amazing thing about this deal wasn’t the money; it was the
incredible number of lunkheads in the San Diego area who immediately
attacked Brown’s character, upbringing, and lineage for "lying" to them
about wanting to be closer to home and spurning the Padres for the hated
Los Angeles Dodgers. The breakroom wit could be heard all over the county:
"where does he think Los Angeles is? He signed with one of the few teams
further from his home than San Diego!"


Never mind the fact that some of the neat perks of the deal are that Brown
gets his own Learjet a dozen times a year and that he gets non-pitching
days off to go home while school is in session. What do these people
think–that he meant closer to home as the crow flies? What’d people think
Brown was planning on doing? Walking to Macon? Cripes, it’s tough to get
closer to home than free plane rides and attending two games (or so) out of
five. It will certainly be interesting to see if the time off during the
season is something that becomes more common with big-ticket pitchers in
the future.


As for the rest of the deal, there’s no chance it’ll break baseball in any
appreciable way, though it is odd that the Dodgers offered $105 million
when no other teams were reportedly near that much. You can’t blame Brown
for taking that kind of money over the $60 million the Padres offered–at
least, not if you are being honest with yourself. Kevin Brown will
probably be productive for about two-thirds of the length of that deal, and
the Dodgers probably won’t win anything in the interim, but when you’re
bankrolled by Rupert Murdoch, who really cares?


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Claimed pitcher Joe Borowski off waibers from the New York Yankees.
Claimed catcher Charlie Greene off waivers from the Baltimore
Orioles. [12/4]

Signed infielder Sean Berry to a two-year contract with club option
for 2001. [12/8]

Claimed infielder Lou Collier off waivers from the Pittsburgh
Pirates. Released outfielder Marc Newfield. [12/18]


The Brewers already have the very capable Jeff Cirillo to play third base
for them, so it’s most likely that they’ll want Berry’s services at first
base to platoon with Dave Nilsson, pending the arrival of Kevin Barker.
That isn’t a bad situation at all. Berry also helps strengthen a
perpetually weak bench, now that the Brewers won’t have Darrin Jackson or
Marc Newfield to kick around any longer (although they now have the
always-disappointing tools goof, Alex Ochoa). Newfield is the last link to
Greg Vaughn, and what once looked like a promising a deal from the Brewers’
standpoint has evaporated into nothing. Collier figures to back up
Valentin at short, unless the Brewers finally let Mark Loretta win the
everyday job.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Traded outfielder Alex Ochoa to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder
Darrell Nicholas. [12/14]

Signed infielder Brent Gates, outfielder Melvin Nieves, first
baseman Eddie Williams and pitcher Ryan Hancock to
minor-league contracts. Signed shortstop Christian Guzman and
pitchers Danny Mota, Brent Stentz, and Travis Baptist
to one-year contracts. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Frank Rodriguez to a one-year contract. Claimed
pitcher Jose Espinal off waivers from the Chicago Cubs. Signed
catcher George Williams and pitcher Gary Rath to minor-league
contracts. Designated shortstop Pat Meares for assignment. [12/18]

Signed infielder Denny Hocking to a two-year contract. [12/23]


Ochoa has turned into every bit the player that rec.sport.baseball denizens
were hailing him as when the O’s traded him, along with Damon Buford, for
Bobby Bonilla in 1995. And I don’t mean that in a good way. The Twins are
better off without him, but then they never should have let their spats
with Rich Becker get to the point that they’d trade him for an Ochoa in the
first place. Now the Twins will give Nicholas a long look in center field
(competing with Torii Hunter and Chris Latham, among others), and adding
Mel Nieves for DH or corner outfield duty can’t help but be an improvement
over Ochoa or Otis Nixon in all phases of the game.


Frankie Rodriguez getting a contract from the Twins is a surprise, to say
the least. He’s in the doghouse more than Schottzie II, and a good career
as a Twin is probably out of the question at this point. Considering the
stiffs Minnesota was throwing out there towards the end of the season, he
certainly still has the stuff to help out.


Denny Hocking or Pat Meares? That, my friends, is a question I hope your
favorite organization never has to ask. But should we shed any tears for
Meares? Hardly. If anything, his fate is a classic example of what the
union has done wrong in terms of protecting its less talented members.
Meares isn’t a great player or really a very good one, and the Twins’
decision to duck the "inevitable" arbitration payday Meares was "due" is a
valid decision. Meares isn’t significantly better than a passel of
internal options or minor league free agents, certainly not better enough
to justify an arbitration decision in the millions to pay for mediocrity.
The union has spent it’s time focusing on ways to inflate salaries for the
top tier of players. Meanwhile, they’ve been slow to appreciate that the
precedents created by salary arbitration have led to inflated (read:
unrealistic) expectations that big paydays can happen for every major
league veteran. As long as major league teams have the option to
non-tender arbitration-eligible mediocrities, it doesn’t work that way. I
don’t have a problem with that, but it does produce disappointment (and
potentially lucrative freedom) for Mr. Meares, more wasted ink on those
mean old cheap evil owners (stop me if you’re heard that one before) from
your local beat writer, and no plan of action from the union to spread the
wealth more equitably among its members, or extending membership or
benefits to the huge number of professional baseball players who deserve
representation.


NEW YORK METS

Traded pitcher Willie Blair to the Detroit Tigers for infielder
Joe Randa. [12/4]

Traded infielder Joe Randa to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder
Juan Le Bron. [12/10]

Signed outfielder Rickey Henderson to a one-year contract. [12/13]

Traded outfielder Butch Huskey to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher
Lesli Brea. [12/14]

Re-signed pitcher Josias Manzanillo and infielder Craig
Paquette
to minor-league contracts. [12/18]


Continuing their go-go ways this offseason, the Mets firm up their starting
team by ditching some unwanted salary and replacing Butch Huskey in the
outfield. Trading Willie Blair means that the Mets have escaped the
Bernard Gilkey debacle more cheaply than they had any right to expect, and
with their deep pitching staff they didn’t really need Blair around anyway.
Le Bron is a decent-looking prospect who’s gotten a bad rap for his
immaturity, but we’re talking about a 21 year old.


Prior to their employing Tony Phillips last season, the Mets lacked a real
leadoff hitter. They’ve addressed that need in a big way with the signing
of Rickey Henderson, who is a shadow of his former self but who is also a
better fit with the organization than Butch Huskey (or Phillips).
Henderson is 40, but he still has speed and a better glove in left than
either Huskey or Phillips, and he still gets on base despite the decay of
his batting average and power. He should help his push to set the record
for runs scored batting in front of Alfonzo, Olerud, Piazza, and Ventura.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed infielder Tony Phillips to a one-year contract. [12/11]

Re-signed catcher Mike Macfarlane to a one-year contract. [12/16]

Re-signed pitchers Buddy Groom and Gil Heredia to one-year
contracts. [12/21]

Signed infielder Domingo Cedeno to a minor-league contract. [12/23]


In yet another green-and-gold prodigal son story, Tony Phillips returns to
the organization he started his career with, back during the bad old Gorman
Heimueller days. Phillips will replace Rickey Henderson fairly seamlessly
in terms of leading off, but it’s an open question as to what it means for
playing time for others. Don’t be surprised if Phillips gets spot starts
at second and third as well as in left and DH. Macfarlane returns as the
second catcher, where he hopefully won’t take too much time away from A.J.
Hinch, and Cedeno represents a useful offense-oriented replacement for
Raffy Bournigal as the team’s utility infielder. Heredia and Groom did
some of their best work last year, and both were rewarded with new deals.
It’s really anyone’s guess if they can continue to be effective as middle
relievers, but don’t be surprised if Heredia sneaks into the competition
for a rotation spot.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed catcher Tom Prince to a two-year contract. Designated
outfielder Billy McMillon for assignment. [12/15]


Who’s got space for a player like Billy McMillon when you’ve got a catcher
like Tom Prince (or an outfielder like Ron Gant, for that matter) all lined
up? To be fair, Bobby Estalella’s health is a major issue now
that he’s severely injured his shoulder, and with Lieberthal’s rare pelvic
injury, the Phillies need catching help, but it seems strange that of all
the people to remove from the 40-man roster in their persistently shallow
organization, it was a player with some offensive talent.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Traded pitcher Jon Lieber to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder
Brant Brown. [12/14]

Signed third baseman Ed Sprague to a one-year contract. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Pete Schourek to a two-year contract. [12/17]

Signed shortstop Rafael Bournigal, pitchers Jim Dougherty and
Todd Ritchie, catcher Chris Tremie, infielder Matt
Howard
, outfielder Ray Montgomery, and first baseman Ivan
Cruz
to minor-league contracts. [12/22]


The Lieber deal was a terrible one for Pittsburgh; trading a useful
innings-eater for a defensively challenged outfielder coming off the year
of his career is never a very good idea, and it isn’t like Brown is all
that young. They managed to lose some depth in their pitching staff
without gaining much of anything that they didn’t already have in Brian
Giles.


The Sprague signing is reason number one to dispense with "small market"
rhetoric once and for all. Does a "small market" team really need to spend
over a million dollars to sign one of the worst third basemen in baseball,
especially when it already has TWO better third basemen around in Freddy
Garcia and Aramis Ramirez around right now? Schourek will almost certainly
never be the same after his dream season with Cincinnati in 1995; he
probably won’t even be able to replace Lieber without a noticible dropoff
in quality. It’s unfortunate that the Pirates, one of the few teams in MLB
who will say they have money to spend, insist on making choices like these
rather than signing some useful talent to supplement their core.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Re-signed outfielder Willie McGee to a one-year contract.
Signed second baseman Pat Kelly to a minor-league contract. [12/8]

Designated pitcher Brady Raggio for assignment. [12/8]

Traded shortstop Pablo Ozuna and pitchers Armando Almanza and
Braden Looper to the Florida Marlins for shortstop Edgar
Renteria
. [12/14]

Acquired catcher Matt Garrick from the Anaheim Angels to complete
the Mark Petkovsek trade. [12/18]


The Cardinals got one of the best to replace Royce Clayton, but it cost
them dearly. Renteria is one of the best shortstops in the majors, and
he’s still a young player, but both Almanza and Looper look as sure as
pitching prospects can, and Ozuna is the best shortstop prospect in
baseball today. If anything, it looks like the Cardinals are on the other
end of the Templeton-for-Ozzie swap this time around. It does make sense
for them to try to capitalize on Big Mac’s and Lankford’s immediate future
to try to win now, and Renteria will be an important part of that. It’s a
daring gamble, and the Cardinals aren’t significantly behind the Mets in
terms of looking good for the wild card, even if their starting pitching
doesn’t heal up.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Re-signed catcher Carlos Hernandez to a three-year contract. [12/2]

Traded pitcher Joey Hamilton to the Toronto Blue Jays for pitchers
Woody Williams and Carlos Almanzar and outfielder Peter
Tucci
. [12/13]

Signed second baseman Carlos Garcia to a minor-league contract. [12/16]

Signed outfielder Shane Mack to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Signed third baseman Dave Magadan to a one-year contract with club
option for 2000. [12/22]


Carlos Hernandez’ agent was talking three years and ten million bones,
which is plainly ridiculous to anyone who has seen Hernandez flail away at
a 0-0 pitch in the dirt. He’s not the worst catcher in the majors, but the
Padres already had Jimmy Leyritz and Greg Myers under contract for 1999,
and Ben Davis moving up the minor-league chain. Hernandez’ camp talked
about how he took less to stay in San Diego, but they should be counting
their blessings he was offered three years at all.


The team apparently has no plan to start Dave Magadan at third base, so
look for him to back up George Arias in 1999. He’s still woefully
powerless, but he still hits for good average and has some patience at the
plate.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed pitcher Greg Hansell to a one-year contract. Signed pitcher
Bronswell Patrick to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Re-signed shortstop Rich Aurilia to a two-year contract. [12/17]

Sent pitcher Troy Brohwan and outfielder Chris Van Rossum to
the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete the Felix Rodriguez trade.
[12/21]

There isn’t much to say here. The Giants aren’t doing much to make
themselves contenders in the NL West, but they may not have to as long as
the Dodgers are spinning their wheels or the Padres are disembowelling
themselves on points like "how do we keep Carlos Hernandez?"


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed designated hitter Jose Canseco to a four-year contract. [12/9]

Re-signed catcher John Flaherty to a one-year contract. [12/11]

Re-signed pitcher Scott Aldred to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Re-signed outfielder Mike Kelly to a one-year contract. [12/23]


Canseco will probably finish his career up in Tampa Bay, and like Wade
Boggs, will be given every opportunity to set a career landmark as a D-Ray
(3,000 hits for Boggs, and 500 HR for Canseco). In other words, the Devil
Rays’ want to play record ball while watching major league teams smack them
around. I guess it’s a plan. Of sorts.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed catcher Mike Hubbard to a minor-league contract. Designated
infielder Domingo Cedeno for assignment. [12/2]

Signed pitcher Mark Clark to a two-year contract with club option
for 2001. [12/8]

Purchased outfielder Ricky Williams from the Montreal Expos. [12/15]

Signed pitcher Eric Gunderson to a one-year contract. [12/18]

Re-signed outfielder Mike Simms to a two-year contract and
outfielder Tom Goodwin to a one-year contract. [12/21]


The Texas Rangers have the best running game in the majors with the trade
for hometown favorite Williams. What he’s useful for in a baseball sense
is a bit harder to see; the Expos made a nice little move to pick him up
and then peddle him to the Rangers and pocket the change. In any case,
look for the Rangers to sign Cecil Fielder to block for Williams, and
expect him to gobble up opponents in 1999.


Tom Goodwin is betting he’ll repeat the first couple of months of 1998 and
send his market value skyrocketing. I can’t say I’m as optimistic as he
is, but it could happen. Mike Simms did good work as a DH with the pennant
winning Rangers last year, and is a useful part of a bench.


Mark Clark will be trying to fill Todd Stottlemyre’s spot in the rotation
with the club; he isn’t the pitcher that Stottlemyre is, but 200 innings of
sub-5.00 ERA ball isn’t something the Rangers can afford to turn their
noses up from, and Clark was cheaper and healthier than the Toad, not to
mention the victim of the worst bullpen support in the major leagues. The
chances that Clark will be good for the Rangers are pretty likely.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed outfielder Geronimo Berroa to a minor-league contract. [12/4]

Traded pitcher Beiker Graterol to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher
Eric Ludwick. [12/14]

Re-signed pitcher Bill Risley to a one-year contract. [12/17]

Re-signed pitcher Joey Hamilton to a three-year contract. [12/21]

Signed catcher Mike Matheny to a one-year contract. Designated
infielder Mike Peeples for assignment. [12/23]


The Blue Jays wasted no time in signing Joey Hamilton to a $17 million
dollar deal. He hasn’t really gotten it together since 1995, and he’s
actually regressed each successive season, which is troubling. He did
pitch excellent baseball in the last half of last season, and is still
fairly young. He should prove to be at least adequate as the number three
starter in Toronto, and could turn out to be a lot more if he likes working
with Dave Stewart as much as he did during the stretch in 1998.


Beiker Graterol? That’s an X-Games name if I’ve ever heard one. Ludwick
is probably still more talented than ex-Mets organizational mate Robert
Person, so don’t be surprised if he joins Person on the Blue Jays’ roster.
With Paul Quantrill recovering from a broken leg that should have him miss
most of camp, and Bill Risley too fragile to pitch on consecutive days, the
Jays will need as many live right-handed arms as they can get.