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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed INF Luis Rivera to a minor league contract with a spring training
NRI. [1/15]

Agreed to terms with RHP Mark Petkovsek on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Agreed to terms with RHP Steve Sparks on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Nothing major here, although you have to wonder why signing Mark Petkovsek
for significantly more than the minimum is somehow indicative of
intelligent management in action. That’s a petty gripe for the most part:
Disney can afford whatever they want. If Michael Eisner wants Mark
Petkovsek to wear Mickey Mouse pants on the mound, I’m sure he can pay
Petko enough to make it worth his while.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Agreed to terms with C Kelly Stinnett on a two-year contract, avoiding
salary arbitration. [1/15]

Signed LHP Stephen Randolph, 2B Junior Spivey, and OFs Jason Conti, Dante
Powell
and and Rob Ryan. [1/21]

Woo-hoo! Fabregas treatment for Stinnett! The always-generous Colangelites
have made few wise roster moves this off-season, but the decision to pay
and play Kelly Stinnett as a regular catcher is one of the better decisions
they’ve made.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed RHP Heathcliff Slocumb to a one-year contract. [1/15]

Like almost any ex-Mariner pitcher, don’t be surprised if Slocumb returns
to being an effective major league reliever. There are exceptions, of
course: I doubt Billy Swift could help anyone anywhere.


BOSTON RED SOX

Agreed to terms with OF Damon Buford on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Buford should remain in a platoon role, hopefully nabbing playing time
against lefties from Troy O’Leary and/or Trot Nixon.


CHICAGO CUBS

Agreed to terms with UT Jose Hernandez and C/UT Tyler Houston on one-year
contracts, avoiding arbitration with both. [1/19]

Hernandez is sort of in an interesting situation, in that he’s going to be
asked to plug multiple holes during the ’99 season. It all depends on who
collapses first or worst: Gaetti at third, Blauser at short, or Lance
Johnson in center. And that’s if we credit Mickey Morandini with only
recessing back to his usual mediocrity. Simply put, Hernandez will be a
regular, even if it means starting
forty games at three different positions.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Agreed to terms with RHP Bill Simas on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Agreed to terms with RHP James Baldwin on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

The Sox seem content to hold on to Simas for now, but don’t be surprised if
they peddle him by July after driving up his value by letting him operate
solo in the closer’s role, instead of sharing it with Bobby Howry.


CINCINNATI REDS

Signed 1B Hal Morris to a one-year contract. [1/14]

Agreed to terms with RHP Jason Bere on a one-year contract, avoiding salary
arbitration. [1/15]

How bright is Jim Bowden, anyways? He’s widely credited for crafty
acquisitions, bargain-basement shopping skills, and knowing how to do more
with less. Is that really the case? Arbitration or no, why should you pay
Jason Bere more than a million simoleans a year? His last good year (’94)
was also the last good year for Marvin Freeman or Ricky Bones or Doug
Drabek. If anything, he should be a good NRI with an incentive-laden base
contract; Bere’s fastball is a memory, and his control is still miserable.
If anything, credit "Fighting Tommy" Tanzer, Bere’s agent and the man who
wanted to go toe to toe with Jerry Manuel, for getting a great contract for
his client. Signing Hal Morris to caddy for Sean Casey might be a nice
nostalgia move, but even at the "low" price he signed for, he’s twice as
expensive as Roberto Petagine would have been, while being a considerably
worse offensive player than Petagine. If the Reds really are "small
market," whatever that means this month, shouldn’t they be very careful
with their money? It seems to me they just blew over a million bucks more
than they should have to get one broken-down pitcher and a light-hitting
pinch hitter.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Re-signed RHP Curtis Leskanic to a two-year contract with club option for
2001. [1/15]

Signed OFs Edgard Clemente and Angel Echevarria to one-year contracts. [1/21]


DETROIT TIGERS

Acquired C Brad Ausmus and LHP C.J. Nitkowski from Houston for C Paul Bako,
RHPs Dean Crow, Mark Persails and Brian Powell, and 3B Carlos Villalobos.
[1/14]

Agreed to terms with RHPs Dave Borkowski, Francisco Cordero, Matt Drews and
Bryce Florie, and LHP Will Brunson on one-year contracts, avoiding
arbitration with Florie. [1/19]

Few postseasons have been more perplexing than that of the Tigers.
Acquiring Ausmus does give them a durable veteran with a good defensive
reputation. Any more than signing Gregg Jefferies, it doesn’t really
accomplish much in terms of significantly improving the team or making it a
viable wild card contender. Okay, it is the fifth time Randy Smith has been
involved in moving Ausmus around. Acquiring Nitkowski is handy, since it
gives the Tigers a solid lefty long reliever who could potentially move
into the rotation at some point; if anything, he’s potentially the big
payoff in the deal. All things considered, the Tigers’ moves might just be
enough to make sure they finish ahead of Minnesota. Maybe. Taken together,
they don’t seem enough to make them really any better than younger and more
talented Royals and White Sox teams.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Agreed to terms with OF-1B baseman Cliff Floyd on a four-year contract,
avoiding salary arbitration. [1/21]

Either way you want to look at it (signing Floyd through his peak, or
signing Floyd to a deal that may make him attractive in trade), another
nifty little move for Dombrowski. It isn’t like Preston Wilson is goint to
push him aside.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Acquired C Paul Bako, 3B Carlos Villalobos, and RHPs Dean Crow, Mark
Persails
and Brian Powell for C Brad Ausmus and LHP C.J. Nitkowski. [1/14]
Agreed to terms with RHP Jose Lima on a one-year contract, avoiding salary
arbitration. [1/18]

Agreed to terms with RHP Jay Powell on a three-year contract and RHP Sean
Bergman
on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with both. [1/19]

Signed RHPs Bob Scanlan, Brian Williams and Jeff McCurry, Cs Marc Ronan,
Randy Knorr and Pedro Lopez, UT Casey Candaele, and OFs Brent Blowers, Alex
Diaz
and Ryan Thompson to minor-league contracts with NRIs to spring
training. [1/21]

The Astros pull off a minor coup, simultaneously dumping salary and making
room for talent. Not only do the Astros move Ausmus out of Mitch Meluskey’s
way, but just in case Meluskey isn’t ready, in Bako they add a handy
platoon partner for Tony Eusebio as a nice fallback position. Meluskey is
an outstanding hitter who, because he switch-hits, will help break up the
Astros’ heavily right-handed lineup. He’s also made significant
improvements behind the plate, so it isn’t as if we should compare him to
Dave Nilsson. Villalobos is nice borderline prospect, and although I don’t
think Brian Powell is a great prospect, I think we all harbor a sneaky
suspicion that Larry Dierker and Vern Ruhle can use anyone who throws
strikes.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Agreed to terms with RHP Scott Service on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration; signed RHP Terry Mathews to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI. [1/14]

The Royals are operating as a good test case for how much you can get away
with in terms of employing freely available talent in your bullpen. Service
was underrated for years in the minors, and Mathews’ big fly ways may not
be quite as punishing in Kansas City as they were in Camden. They serve as
interesting contrasts to Hipolito Pichardo, who competes for such dubious
honors as "Most Overrated Middle Reliever of the ’90s." Or maybe "Most
Overrated Fifth Starter." Somebody gets to win these booby prizes, after
all.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Agreed to terms with LHP Carlos Perez to a three-year contract, and RHP
Ismael Valdes and OF Todd Hollandsworth to one-year contracts, avoiding
arbitration with all three; signed PH Scott Livingstone and LHP Ricardo
Jordan
to minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/15]

Agreed to terms with RHP Darren Dreifort on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Nothing too exciting to notice here, other than pass on the opportunity to
gratuitously slam Todd Hollandsworth(less) and the people who made him a
Rookie of the Year.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Signed RHP Bob Wells to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI;
named Al "Cookie" Newman manager of their Gulf Coast League affiliate.
[1/19]

RHP Bob Tewksbury announced his retirement. [1/20]

Adios to one of my favorites, Bob Tewksbury. I won’t buy his paintings, but
I liked how he painted the plate. I guess I’m confused as to why teams are
chasing down a broken down old man like Orel Hershiser, when apparently
only the Twins and Expos made offers to Tewk. Certainly, given the choices
between one dome or another, I can see why he chose to return to his family
in the New Hampshire backwoods.

The Twins’ decision to make their old utility infielder (Newman) a minor
league manager was one of those things I think we all expected. If he works
out, I won’t be surprised at all if he winds up eventually being the man
who replaces Tom Kelly, four or five years down the road.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Signed PH Derrick May and C Darron Cox to minor-league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [1/13]

Agreed to terms with RHP Dustin Hermanson on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Derrick May amazes me. In one game in Milwaukee this year, he got a rare
start, and was partially responsible for four runs: one that he drove in,
one that he cost the Expos by getting thrown out trying to go from first to
third on a single to left (the hit landed in front of the fielder, and the
trail runner scored later in the inning), and two that he allowed in on
fielding gaffes. A bad day? It didn’t seem too remote from his days as a
regular with the Cubs. What can I say, he must be good in the clubhouse. If
you’re a fan of the Lynx, start that letter-writing campaign now ("Keep May
Away!"), lest Jim Beattie hobble your shot at the International League
title.


NEW YORK METS

Agreed to terms with RHP Hideo Nomo on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed LHP Allen Watson to a one-year contract. [1/19]

Agreed to terms with RHP Jason Isringhausen to a one-year contract,
avoiding arbitration. [1/19]

Signed RHP Jeff Tam to a one-year contract. [1/21]

The Mets continue to put up a brave front, talking about how they’re so
very clever because they think that they can use a six-man rotation, now
that they have Nomo and Allen Watson in the fold, and should they sign Orel
Hershiser. Of course, April will roll around, and the games will count, at
which point the Mets may notice that Watson is bad, Nomo has gotten
consistently worse year after year, Hershiser isn’t good, and Al Leiter is
one of the game’s leading candidates to turn back into a pumpkin if he
doesn’t get hurt first. Some folks are convinced this team will push the
Braves, but I don’t see their stranglehold on second place as being
particularly secure.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Agreed to terms with LHP Andy Pettitte on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Agreed to terms with RHP T.J. Mathews on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Agreed to terms with LHP Paul Spoljaric on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed LHP Mike Mohler to a one-year contract; agreed to terms with RHP
Alan Benes on a one-year contract and LHP Lance Painter on a two-year
contract, avoiding arbitration with both. [1/15]

Agreed to terms with RHP Ricky Bottalico on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Yet another ex-Athletic winds up on the Cardinals. There’s a bit of
cognitive dissonance here: why give Lance Painter two guaranteed years when
Mike Mohler’s available on the cheap? It isn’t like Painter is one of the
better lefty specialists in the game.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Agreed to terms with RHP Danny Miceli on a three-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

The odd element about this deal was that Miceli got considerably more money
over three years than Jay Powell did in his three-year deal with the
Astros. Powell’s younger and has pitched better over the previous three
seasons, while Miceli’s big ’98 was the first time he had an ERA under 4.66
at the major league level. Karma points to the Astros’ front office crew
over Kevin Towers and his gang.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed DH Billy Ashley to a minor league contract with a spring training
NRI. [1/13]

Agreed to terms with LHP Terrell Wade on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/19]

Signed RHPs Bobby Witt, Steve Ontiveros and Marc Valdes, and LHPs Steve
Cooke
and Norm Charlton to minor league contracts with NRIs to spring
training. [1/20]

Now why would a team that has Jose Canseco and Bubba Trammell go out and
sign Billy Ashley? Why would Billy Ashley sign with a team that has Jose
Canseco and Bubba Trammell? Does he really want to add another year to his
Triple-A credentials? My guess is that his agent is to blame. Meanwhile, it
seems that the Rays have forgotten that they’re in the majors, and not the
old Seniors League, because there isn’t a better explanation for why a team
would drag in Witt or Ontiveros or Charlton.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed C John Marzano to a one-year contract. [1/13]

Agreed to terms with RHP Rick Helling on a three-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed C Greg Zaun, RHP Brandon Knight, LHPs Corey Lee and Mike Venafro, RB
Ricky Williams, and OF Mike Zywica to one-year contracts, avoiding
humiliating Zaun in arbitration. [1/19]

So now the epic battle is joined: Marzano vs. Zaun for the right to start
20 or 25 games and get around 100 PA while backing up Pudge Rodriguez. My
money is on Marzano, given that Oates already knows Zaun from the Orioles,
and Zaun doesn’t seem to win personality contests.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed 2B "retiree" Joey Cora and 3B/OF Willie Greene to one-year
contracts; signed RHP Vincente Palacios to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI; designated C Mark Dalesandro and OF Patrick Lennon for
assignment. [1/19]

A mixed bag for Gord Ash, but overall, the Jays are looking like a much
better team than the Red Sox to push for the wild card in ’99. Adding
Willie Greene is great, and the chances are good that he’ll get the lion’s
share of the playing time at DH for the Jays, with some spot duty at third
and the outfield corners. I find almost everything involving Joey Cora’s
actions over the past several months objectionable. He threatened or
promised to retire last year, if only he could get to the playoffs (which
he’d already been in, back in ’93), which gets him a sympathy swap to the
Indians as ill-considered as the previous year’s Tribe swap for Bip
Roberts. Then he doesn’t retire after getting what he whined for, and now
he’s reunited with his ex-White Sox teammate, Craig Grebeck. They’re a
funny pair, in that Grebeck may well have been the better player, but since
he could play the field, he got stuck in a utility role, while Cora, who
could only play second, wound up being easily available whenever anyone
wanted him. Since Cora is a brutal fielder, he does nothing to patch the
hole at second that cropped up when the Jays found out Tony Fernandez
couldn’t turn the deuce any more. Cora’s hardly an asset and this would be
an appropriate moment to mention that the Jays never should have run off
Jeff Patzke. There are many people who can help you at second
base, and they don’t all have to cost as much as Joey Cora to play as well
or better than Joey Cora.