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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed OF Matt Luke to a one-year contract. [1/12]


Luke isn’t the world’s worst spare outfielder, except that he isn’t really
a good match for the Angels. Left-handed power isn’t something a team with
Mo Vaughn and Erstad and Edmonds needs, and a fifth outfielder who gets on
base (like Orlando Palmeiro) is something a team using Garret Anderson will
always need. A pointless addition, given the team’s available talent.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed RHP Frank Castillo to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/12]


Castillo and his agent were apparently laughing off NRI offers in November.
Either his agent is dumb, or his agent isn’t being honest with his client.
For the purposes of you and me, the difference isn’t significant, but Frank
may want to give it some thought.


BOSTON RED SOX

Signed RHP Kip Gross; signed LHP Rheal Cormier to a minor league contract
with a NRI to spring training. [1/5]

Signed RHP Pat Rapp to a one-year contract with an option for 2000. [1/11]

Signed OF Pedro Valdes to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/12]


Between Gross and Rapp, you might be hard-pressed to pick which one should
be the fifth starter. Gross is coming off a pretty good multi-year run in
Japan, although he missed a couple of months this past year with a bad
elbow. At the least, you’d have to hope he’ll turn out better than the
Duke’s last Japanese adventure, Robinson Checo. Rapp was pretty crummy for
the Royals, and hasn’t really resolved his control problems, so this is
hardly the sort of move that’s going to keep Boston ahead of Toronto, let
alone give Brian Cashman indigestion. The additions of Rapp and Mark
Portugal are being hailed as some sort of mini-trend, where the Red Sox are
supposed to be “acquiring NL pitchers,” except that isn’t really true. How
many people think of Sabes as a Met instead of as a Royal? Last I checked,
Portugal was developed by the Twins, and finally, in the cases of Rapp and
Portugal, who cares where they came from if they aren’t any good? Poor
Pedro Valdes, another solid minor league veteran who could handle a major
league job, and now condemned to a season at Pawtucket, the graveyard for
many a Ken Phelps All-Star.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed RHP Tanyon Sturtze, OF Dwayne Hosey, and INF Tilson Brito to minor
league contracts with NRIs to spring training. [1/6]

Traded C Joe Sutton to the Dodgers for RHP Darren Hall. [1/12]


Sutton isn’t really a prospect, so the best news here is that acquiring
Hall may make the Sox feel comfortable enough with their bullpen that
they’ll finally move Keith Foulke to the rotation if his arm is sound in
camp. The flip side of the coin is that it could signal that they’re
serious about peddling Bill Simas before he gets expensive. As for Hall,
he’s you’re basic run-of-the-mill mediocre reliever, so maybe the Sox can
turn him into a Cub 15 saves and six months from now, in exchange for
something good. Brito and Hosey both have surprisingly solid chances to
earn jobs with the Sox, Hosey as a potential platoon mate with Brian
Simmons in center, and Brito as the team’s utility infielder, since it
isn’t likely that Craig Wilson is going to hit much more than half of last
season’s .468 cup of coffee.


CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired P Pedro Minaya from the Marlins for OF Pat Watkins. [1/6]

Signed C Brian Johnson to a one-year contract. [1/11]


So the Reds now have two weak defensive catchers in Taubensee and Johnson,
which means they’ll probably carry a third as a defensive replacement. At
least Bowden managed to snag a hard-throwing kid for Watkins, who had
quickly worked his way into Jack McKeon’s always-spacious doghouse.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHPs Dave Telgheder and Mike Walker, INF Jeff Manto, SS Orlando
Miller
, and C Chris Turner to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring
training. [1/5]


The leavenings of another strong Bisons roster, unless you’re part of the
lunatic fringe that still thinks Orlando Miller is/was a prospect.


DETROIT TIGERS

Named Juan Samuel first-base, outfield, and baserunning coach, and Alan
Trammell
hitting instructor. [1/5]

Invited INF Jason Bates and RHP Brandon Reed to training camp. [1/6]

Announced that RHP Bryan Corey cleared waivers and assigned him to Toledo.
[1/8]


Getting Tramm’ into uniform is a good thing, and I hope he’s up to the job.
Some happy minor league player (you would hope) should tithe part of his
contract to the Tigers for finally getting Samuel out of uniform. I’m
assuming Samuel coaching the outfield is your basic "those who can’t,
teach" scenario.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Acquired OF Pat Watkins for P Pedro Minaya.
Signed RHP Matt Mantei to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/11]


Mantei will get first crack at the closer’s job, assuming he’s healthy in
consecutive months. Watkins joins Preston Wilson and Bruce Aven in the
battle for the fourth and fifth outfield spots with the Marlins. There
isn’t much to recommend him over either, unless Aven is still hurt.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Re-signed C Tony Eusebio to a one-year contract. [1/12]


Don’t be surprised when you see at least one story in print about how
Darryl Kile’s continuing struggles on the surface of Planet Coors are
because he doesn’t have his "personal catcher," Tony Eusebio. It’ll be a
slow news day. Very slow.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed RHP A.J. Sager to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.


With the great Rickey Bones gone, and with the equally great Hipolito
Pichardo looking like damaged goods (again), the just-as-great Sager will
get every opportunity to be a long reliever and spot starter for The Last
Team Herk Built.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed OF Chen Chin-Feng from Taiwan to a six-year contract. [1/5]

Signed LHPs Pedro Borbon, Chris Haney, Matt Jarvis, and Gavin Osteen, RHPs
Jaime Arnold and Matt Herges, 1B Kevin Grijak, Pete "the Hit Prince" Rose
Jr.
, and Cs Tim Laker and Hector Ortiz to minor league contracts with NRIs
to spring training. [1/6]

Signed PH Dave Hansen to a one-year contract; waived RHP Doug Bochtler
outright. [1/11]

Traded RHP Darren Hall to the White Sox for C Joe Sutton; signed LHP Greg
Cadaret
to a one-year contract. [1/12]


Hold your horses, sports fans, San Antonio can look forward to Pete Rose
Jr.! Woohooo! Talk about Fox creativity! The synergies are so…
compelling? Obvious? Underwhelming? All right, so I shouldn’t write after
chugging a Mountain Dew.


The real interest here is that Hansen is exactly the kind of player Davey
Johnson knows how to use (regularly), and that the Dodgers seem convinced
they can get by with any old chaff to replace Scott Radinsky and Mark
Guthrie for their left-handed setup duties. Aided by Chavez Ravine (and
Jeff Kubenka), they’re probably right. As for Chin-Feng mania, the
Taiwanese wunderkind will almost certainly spend ’99 in the minors.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed CF Rick Becker to a one-year contract. [1/11]


A great signing, in that it wipes out any opportunity that the Brewers
might hand the fourth OF job to Greg Martinez or someone like him. The way
to make this even better is if Becker gets an opportunity to play his way
into a job-sharing arrangement with Marquis Grissom.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Re-signed C Terry Steinbach to a one-year contract; signed 3B Brian
Richardson
to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring training. [1/4]


The bottom line is that the Twins saved themselves almost a million dollars
for not picking up Steinbach’s option, which in terms of agressive "small
market" financing, is good common sense. Does it create hard feelings?
Maybe, but compare this situation to what Jim Bowden did to Jeff Shaw. The
Twins were relatively forthright about what they had to do, and Steinbach
appears able to live with it.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Sent RHP Jason Cole to Arizona to complete the Ramon Morel trade.
Claimed LHP Roberto Duran off of waivers from the Tigers. [1/7]


A classic Expos snag. Four years from now, don’t be surprised if Duran is
staring at a huge arbitration payoff, and gets traded to the Dodgers or
Arizona after giving Felipe Alou around 220 quality innings. The man cooks
with gas.


NEW YORK METS

Signed UT Jerry Brooks. [1/12]


NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed RHP Dan Naulty to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/11]


Well, now the Clippers can breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll have Dan
Naulty anchoring their pen.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Signed RHP Kevin Jarvis to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/4]

Signed RHP Billy Taylor to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [1/6]

Signed OF Marc Newfield to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/7]

Signed RHP Mike Oquist to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/8]

Signed RHP Doug Jones to a one-year contract. [1/11]


I don’t mind bringing in 42 year old Doug Jones; after all, he can give
young whippersnappers like Billy Taylor (37) or Buddy Groom (a tender 33) a
few pointers on the palmball, moustache maintenance, and a little bit more
about the palmball. Oquist has a very slim chance to compete for the fifth
spot; if he wins, several other things will have gone horribly wrong to get
Gil Heredia, Blake Stein, Jay Witasick, Eric DuBose, and Mark Mulder out of
the way.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RHP Rodney Bolton and C Andy Stewart to minor league contracts. [1/5]


Some times, it pays not to listen to me. This is probably one of those
times: I think Rod Bolton can pitch, but I thought Scott Ruffcorn could
pitch. There isn’t much market for bold claims that Bolton could put up 100
major league innings that would make Phillies fanatics forget Garrett
Stephenson. Bolton doesn’t throw hard, has outstanding control, and his
potential up-side has already been trailblazed by Rick Reed. That’s better
than taking one more spin with Tyler Green, but Paul Byrd is first in line
for a rotation spot.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed 1B Domingo Martinez to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training; invited RHPs Kris Benson and Todd Van Poppel, LHP Rich Sauveur,
UT Steve Bieser, and 2Bs Jeff Patzke and Warren Morris to spring training.
[1/5]
Agreed to terms with 2B Tony Womack on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/12]


America’s favorite small market team bent on running itself into the ground
doesn’t have much to brag about here. They’re seriously considering an
infield of Womack, Sprague, and Benjamin, when Morris or Patzke, Freddy
Garcia or Aramis Ramirez, and Abe Nunez would be better in every phase of
the game, not to mention cheaper. The Pirates are looking like one of the
great "might have beens," a team that could have been competitive if they
elected to stick with the "cheap youth" craze of ’97, but who instead blew
bucks on Ed Sprague.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed OF Darren Bragg to a one-year contract (with a club option for
2000). [1/12]


A very good signing for the Cardinals, in that Bragg will be the team’s
fourth outfielder, pushing Willie McGee almost strictly to pinch-hitting.
Of course, the news isn’t all happy if you’re somebody like Mark Little or
Joe McEwing. First, over the holidays they get the news that McGee isn’t
ready to quit, then this. Can you time-share a lump of coal?


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Claimed RHP Steve Connelly off of waivers from the Red Sox.
Signed UT F.P. Santangelo to a one-year contract. [1/8]


Surprise, surprise, Duquette has his bluff called in another skirmish in
waiver wire warfare. The addition of supersub Santangelo is a great move
for the Giants. That they got him for only $500,000 might make this one of
the best free agent signings of the season. Not that we’re suddenly going
to become Sabeanians…


SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed OF/1B John Mabry to a two-year contract. [12/31]


Signed RHP Bill Swift to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/8]


The Mariners were overjoyed to find Mabry available. They’re busy talking
up how great their bench is going to be now that they have Butch Huskey and
Mabry, but what those two have in common is that Russ Davis could be the
defensive replacement for either of them at third, and neither hits well
enough to be much more than (now-expensive) spare parts. Naturally,
Piniella is talking about how many great pinch-hitters he’s going to have,
but how many times can he pinch-hit for Carlos Guillen? Dick Williams tried
to get around having his second basemen bat back in his days running the
A’s by pinch-hitting for them early and often, and it didn’t work. Unless
the Mariners move the NL, they haven’t accomplished much. More symptomatic
is re-signing Billy Swift while talking about what a good job he did last
year. We’re talking about a guy who has a hard time keeping his ERA under
six, or getting to the end of the fifth inning. But c’mon, he’s old enough
for Lou, so results apparently don’t count. The trident chuckers still
don’t what they’re doing, but they’re spending money, so they feel
confident.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed RHP Brady Raggio and INF P.J. Forbes to minor league contracts. [1/5]

Re-signed LHP Tony Fossas to a minor league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/7]


The Fossil had a good warmup session or two in the last ten months, so he
gets a contract.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed OFs Wayne Kirby and Jimmy Hurst to minor league contracts with NRIs
to spring training. [1/6]


What’s more sadistic: treating the good folks of Syracuse to Jose Herrera,
like they did last year, or bringing in Wayne Kirby? Some folks have said
nice things about Hurst in the past, but I’m not a believer.
Adequate-hitting minor league DHs aren’t what any self-respecting team
needs. Okay, so the Tigers or the Royals could use him.

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