Signed INF Andy Stankiewicz to a minor-league contract with a spring
training NRI; signed LHP Chris Michalak, RHP Steve Mintz and OF Darold
to minor-league contracts. [1/25]

Signed LHP Mike Magnante to a one-year contract. [1/26]

Just in case you’re wondering, Mike Holtz’ window of opportunity is being
shut now that the Halos have added Magnante. Bringing in the jug-eared
portsider isn’t a bad gamble for them. As for signing Andy Stankiewicz, few
signings deserve to be considered more pointless. Even within the limited
list of things you could want or expect from your utility infielder,
Stankiewicz doesn’t do either of the two things you’d most like out of a
utility man: either you can use a guy with anything like an offensive skill
(a little power like Steve Scarsone, or run like Paul Faries, or a little
of everything from Robert Eenhorn), or the ability to play shortstop.
"Stanky" doesn’t do either, which makes him a poor man’s Jeff Huson. He’s
got a split contract, which is money wasted if he makes the majors.


Agreed to terms with LHP Omar Daal on a two-year contract, avoiding salary
arbitration. [1/26]

A nice resolution for what was one of several thoughtful gambles on
journeymen by the D-backs last season. It isn’t every day that the Expos
ditch a pitcher with value before he becomes valuable, and losing him to
the Blue Jays halfway through ’97 is another of Jim Beattie’s mistakes that
need to be remembered.


Signed 1B Bob Hamelin and RHP Rich Garces to minor-league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [1/26]

Bringing in the Hammer to take a crack at playing time at first or DH is a
good thing; it could end up being a platoon with Jeff Frye, with Offerman
moving to second when Hamelin plays, and first when Frye is in, but it’s
too early to know. I expect Hamelin will improve on last season: the
Brewers used him primarily as a pinch-hitter, and that affected Hamelin’s
patience at the plate. With regular playing time, I could see his OBP
bouncing back up.


Agreed to terms with RHP Terry Adams on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/22]

Agreed to terms with RHP Matt Karchner on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/23]

This has to be reassuring to Cubs fans, yessiree. Did I mention that in
case or when either or both fail, Ed Lynch has Scott Sanders waiting in the
wings? I’m not being fair, though, in that a good major league manager
would be able to straighten Adams and Karchner out, and if Riggleman were
to show a bit of patience, the Cubs might finally be rewarded with some consistent
middle relief help.


Signed OFs John Cangelosi and Darrin Jackson to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs; invited RHP Kip Wells to spring training with a NRI;
outrighted RHP John Ambrose to Birmingham (Double-A). [1/26]

As promised (or threatened), the Sox have finally brought in their
potential road blocks for Brian Simmons. Cangelosi has a past history with
Manuel from their service on the ’97 world champion Marlins, not to mention
the bad old days when he was roaming center for the Sox back in ’86. He has
value as a spare part and bench player, but there is the danger that he
could steal playing time or a job from Simmons. As for Jackson, it is
unfortunate that he reconsidered his decision to retire. One beat writer
enthused that it’s been "only five years" since his good season with the
Sox, 1994. It’s an unfortunate comment, since the differences between 30
(and being at the tail end of a player’s potential peak) and 35 (and being
one of the worst-hitting OFs in baseball) are pretty dramatic.


Agreed to terms with LHP Ron Villone on a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/25]

Signed RHP Dave Stevens to a minor-league contract with a spring training
NRI; signed RHP Scott Klingenbeck to a minor-league contract. [1/26]

The Indians don’t have room for the three of them, but a team could use
Villone or Stevens. The "problem" is that the Tribe is already overstocked
in the bullpen, especially since they brought in Jerry Spradlin and
Riccardo Rincon. Klingenbeck will look good as a Bison, maybe even good
enough that somebody would trade for him, a la Dave Weathers.


Invited RHP Nick Skuse to spring training with a NRI. [1/26]

Claimed RHP Mike Grzanich off of waivers from the Astros. [1/27]

Not a bad little claim, but the Tigers’ pen is already pretty full of
good-looking alternatives. Skuse is the classic Randy Smith project
pitcher: huge (6’7") and throws hard, so don’t be surprised if he gets a
long look, or gets traded to the Astros, Padres, or Rockies.


Placed 3B Josh Booty on the mercifully retired list at Calgary. [1/22]

Invited RHPs Bobby Rodgers, Archie Corbin, Hector Almonte, Rob Stanifer,

Dario Perez, and Dennis Springer, LHP Ed Yarnall, SSs Benji Gil and Pablo
, 1Bs Tim Hyers and Kevin Millar, INF Chris Clapinski, C Ryan
, DHs John Roskos and Chris Norton, 2B Lionel Hastings, and OFs
Darond Stovall, Bruce Aven and Fletcher Bates to spring training with NRIs.

There are some surprises in the invite list, in that it isn’t unlikely that
four or five guys on this list could make the team. Yarnall, of course, but
there’s also Gil, Aven, Springer. Clapinski would have to displace Dave
Berg, and Roskos and Millar may fight for a spot as a pinch-hitter.


Signed RHP Xavier Hernandez to a one-year contract. [1/25]

Designated RHP Mike Grzanich for assignment. [1/26]

The X-man failed his physical, which gets him out of Baltimore (which cost
them Willie Greene, if I remember correctly), which leads the Orioles to
sign the fearsome Heathcliff Slocumb, all while they’re also adding Richie
Amaral… okay, this is supposed to be about the Astros, and here I am
kicking Frank Wren on your dime. If anyone is going to get anything out of
Hernandez and his bum shoulder, then the combination of the Astrodome and
Larry Dierker and Vern Ruhle adds up to the best-case scenario for him.


Signed RHP Pete Smith, OF Tony Tarasco and INF Steve Scarsone to
minor-league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/25]

Signed RHP Tim Scott to a minor-league contract with a spring training NRI.

The Royals are putting on a "free talent" exhibition. I could easily
envision a powder-blue future that has Pete Smith in the rotation, and
Tarasco getting 300 PAs, Scarsone pummeling Shane Halter out of a
roster spot, and Tim Scott coming back from a year of recuperation to be a
semi-useful arm in the pen. Any and all of these moves could turn out well
on their own terms, the problem being that the Royals are currently weak
enough that they’re all within the realm of the possible. As long as none
of these signing impact on a commitment to play Giambi, Beltran, and
Febles, they’re harmless to the team’s future.


Invited RHPs Kyle Peterson, Jim Converse, Steve Falteisek, Reggie Harris,
Rod Henderson, Ryan Henderson, Hector Ramirez, Tim VanEgmond, and William
, LHP Jeff Granger, Cs Alex Andreopoulos and Jorge Brito, DHs
Brandon Cromer, Todd Dunn and Luis Ortiz, and SS Eddie Zosky to spring
training with NRIs. [1/25]

Signed LHP Jim Abbott to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2000;
designated CF Greg Martinez for assignment. [1/26]

Agreed to terms with INF Mark Loretta on a one-year deal, avoiding
arbitration. [1/27]

As I’ve stated in the past about Abbott, five starts against weak
competition is no basis for realistic expectations. I expect him to crash
and burn as a Brewer. And what’s going to happen when he has to bat, now
that he’s in the National League? I wish him well, and I hope he succeeds,
but I really doubt he will. If anything, the Brewers are better off taking
their chances with Rod Henderson or VanEgmond in the fifth slot of the
rotation, at least until Peterson shows whether or not he’ll be ready.
Bringing in Reggie Harris warms the cockles of Huckabay’s heart, but there
probably isn’t room for him.


Signed 1B/OF Orlando Merced to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/27]

Worst-case scenario is that Merced gives the Expos everything they expected
from Derrick May and more, and thus blocking Bergeron or Seguignol or
somebody else who can play baseball.


Signed UT Mariano Duncan to a minor-league contract and with a spring
training NRI; signed "3B" Mike Kinkade. [1/22]

Signed 2B Ralph Milliard to a minor-league contract. [1/25]

Duncan’s coming back from a bad season in Japan; I’m dubious about the
sense of bringing him in. Milliard still looks stranded; the Mets could
apply the thinking that told them to sign Ventura to move Alfonzo to
second, and use it to move Alfonzo to short to play Milliard at second, but
that would be really unreasonable to expect. It’s more like the Mets to
trade for Fernando Vina, assuming they even acknowledged St. Rey as a
problem in the first place.


Issued NRIs to spring training to Cs Tim McIntosh, Michael Hernandez, Jaime
, Victor Valencia and B.J. Waszgis, 3B Mike Coolbaugh, INF Clay
, 2B Brian Raabe, OFs Bubba Carpenter, Alonzo Powell and Jerome
, DH Darryl Strawberry, and RHPs Jason Grimsley, Jeff Juden, Dave
, Chris Nichting, David Carroll and Katsuhiro Maeda. [1/26]

There’s a sort of kismet with the realization that "personality" players
like Jeff Juden and Kat Maeda should be teammates in Columbus. Along with
the epically wild Grimsley and scab Dave Pavlas, there’s something
intriguing about what a strange bunch of guys will suit up for the
Clippers in ’99.


Signed 1B Jeff Ball to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/22]

Signed LF/DH Tim Raines to a one-year contract. [1/25]

I’m not a big fan of bringing in Raines, since he doesn’t do either of the
things the A’s need (pound lefties or play second), but he does give the
team flexibility in terms of moving Tony Phillips to second if Spiezio
continues to scuffle or to third if they get frustrated with Chavez. I
don’t really expect either Spiezio or Chavez to disappoint, so I suspect
Raines will just get a start a week in left, and starts at DH (especially
against LHPs), and some pinch-hitting for Hinch, Tejada, or Spiezio. If it
becomes more than that, things will have gone seriously awry.


Signed 1B John Zuber to a minor-league contract. [1/22]

Signed OF Billy McMillon to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/25]

Now if only McMillon got a crack at the starting job in left. It may yet
happen, in that Ron Gant isn’t a great bet for extended health or
tremendous performance. On the other hand, McMillon’s already 27, so his
chances of ever getting as much of a career as even Warren Newson are
getting pretty slim.


Signed 2B Carlos Baerga to a one-year contract. [1/26]

Maybe there’s a hidden market for bad ballplayers in turquoise leather
jumpsuits, but I’m glad this isn’t my money. Baerga has become an awful
defensive player, and his offensive contributions aren’t enough to make you
want to put up with his glove. We’re talking about a guy who hasn’t slugged
.400 since ’95, and who hasn’t drawn twenty walks under his own power since
’96 (when he drew 21). He barely has anything over Adam Kennedy right now,
and signing him for ten times as much as it would have cost to bring in
Brian Raabe or Dave Hajek or Jason Hardtke in case Pat Kelly hurts himself
and in case Kennedy isn’t ready is simply a waste. Baerga isn’t really any
better than any of these guys, but his salary will make it that much more
difficult for the Cardinals to add salary later when they decide to trade
for a starting pitcher once Oliver or Osborne break down in a season that
is beginning to shape up as a big push to try to get some piece of
postseason pie before McGwire and Lankford get old. Maybe it’s me, but
signing Baerga reminds me an awful lot of the miserable decision back in
’87, when LaRussa dragged in Tony Bernazard’s carcass to cover for Tony
Phillips’ latest injury. The difference is that Bernazard (also 30 at the
time) was better then than Baerga is now.


Signed RHP Mike Morgan to a minor-league contract with a NRI to spring
training. [1/26]

Agreed to terms with RHP Tim Crabtree on a two-year contract with a club
option for 2001, avoiding arbitration. [1/27]

The Rangers’ rotation is already pretty well set (Helling, Sele, Clark,
Loaiza, and Burkett), so Morgan may end up becoming a very valuable long
reliever. He’s handled the job in the past, he still has excellent control,
but the problem may be his ability to pitch on consecutive days. The
Rangers are the kind of team that may carry 12 pitchers, so they may be
able to put up with it.


No news here, just making up for something I forgot to get into last week
in regard to the Willie Greene situation (thanks to Jon Bernstein for
pointing out this oversight): Tom Evans’ latest shoulder injury. The Jays
are saying it won’t require surgery, and that he’ll undergo heavy rehab in
anticipation that he’ll be ready to go by the time camp opens. If Evans
really can play, Willie Greene should spend a good chunk of time at DH, and
Tony Fernandez will have to time-share at second with Cora and/or Grebeck,
and third with Greene. Although Fernandez has his limitations afield,
playing him at short once or twice a week probably wouldn’t hurt too badly,
as long as you did it with strikeout/flyout pitchers who can survive with
barely-adequate infield defense. If Evans can’t play, then Greene will
split his time between DH and third, while Fernandez will get most of the
playing time at third. Basically, the Jays are pretty well covered, even if
they didn’t have to sign Cora to get there.

Thank you for reading

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