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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Mentioned that RHP Pep Harris‘ contract for 1999 includes a club option for
2000. [3/2]

Announced the retirement of INF Craig Shipley. [3/6]

Adios to Craig Shipley, one of Australia’s first wave of imports. His
departure opens up the utility job to such luminaries as Luis Rivera,
Jeff Huson, and Andy Stankiewicz. Tony Kubek refused an offer
to come out of retirement, Ed Romero said he preferred coaching, and Frankie
Frisch is still dead. Never fear, Angels fans. Faster than you can say
"Steamboat Willie Rocks," Johnny Ray’s phone will probably start
ringing. The club’s decision to tack on an option for Harris is a nice
gesture, since he probably won’t pitch much this year as he recovers from
major surgery.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Designated RHP Bobby Chouinard for assignment. [3/1]

Believe me, come springtime, he knows this drill.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed Korean 1B Hee Seop Choi. [3/6]

Signed out of college, the Cubs are already touting him as a future power
source. If it happens, it’s years into the future, long after the applause
for Mark Grace’s 3,000th hit have died down, somewhere towards the
end of… the 2005 season? Alright, maybe that doesn’t sound too likely. It
would be amazing if the Cubs really kept Grace around that long, and that’s
about how long it will take for him to get to that particular milestone,
even if he stays healthy.


CINCINNATI REDS

Signed INF Tim Naehring to a minor-league contract with a spring training
NRI. [3/1]

Signed OF Alejandro Quezada to a minor-league contract. [3/2]

Talk about your mixed bag. Naehring’s a Cincinnati native coming back to a
team that needs a third baseman. As willing as he might be to take the job,
I don’t think anybody thinks he can actually play on consecutive days, if at
all. It’s already being speculated that he’ll slip into coaching with the
organization, but this is the organization giving Jose Rijo
one last comeback attempt, so who knows how long it will take before they
ask Naehring to stop trying. That said, I wish him the best of luck. Quezada
is a young semi-prospect coming out of the Japanese leagues, where he had
fewer than 61 ABs, but hit well. That tells you literally zero about whether
or not he’s any good; anybody, even Mike Benjamin, has his hot
streaks.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Re-signed 1B Todd Helton to a four-year contract. [3/1]

Re-signed RF Larry Walker to a six-year contract extension through 2005.
[3/4]

An even odder couple of moves. Signing Helton early and for what might seem
to be a relatively lucrative contract makes perfect sense, but signing
Walker for this kind of money up to his 39th birthday is the kind of
millstone that even an organization with the Rockies’ deep pockets will
regret horribly. We’re talking about a guy who’s been a disappointment in
two of his four seasons in Coors, through the ages of 28 through 31. Even
with Coors Field to keep his production inflated, the chances that he’s
going to be even have more years like his weak, injury-riddled 1996 are very
strong. This might be the worst long-term signing since the Pirates’
decision to pay Andy Van Slyke over Barry Bonds.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Released OF Curtis Pride. [3/4]

Pride re-injured a bum wrist, and it doesn’t look like he’ll heal up until
July. Probably won’t add much pension time as a pinch-hitter this year.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed C Rick Wilkins to a minor-league contract. [3/3]

Conspiracy theorists take note of this signing, coming as it does in
conjunction with Todd Hundley’s continuing elbow problems. Draw your own
conclusions, but mine is that Wilkins gives the Dodgers a safety net in case
Hundley can’t catch and just in case they don’t feel Angel Pena is ready.
Anybody really want to believe Kevin Malone’s foolhardy bluster about
budding greatness now?


MINNESOTA TWINS

Re-signed RHP LaTroy Hawkins to a two-year contract. [3/7]

Given their newer, even cheaper approach to the roster, that pretty much
locks Hawkins into the rotation, whatever the results. That isn’t
necessarily a bad thing, because I’m still hopeful that Hawkins can finally
turn into a league-average starter.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Re-signed 1B Kevin Young to a four-year contract extension through 2003.
[3/6]

By contrast, this almost makes the Walker seem sensible. Young is an
adequate offensive player for first base, right now, when he’s as good as
he’ll ever get, and he’s already turning 30. Remember this signing if Kevin
McClatchy dares to poormouth his club again. The tragedy of the Pirates is
that the initial investors who bailed out from McClatchy’s group were right:
this team has no idea what it is doing, or where it is going. If it can
afford to throw money at adequate players like Young, and inadequate players
like Ed Sprague, then you have to wonder about the nature of the
problem. Is baseball in Pittsburgh really safe, new stadium or not? When the
organization makes these sorts of misguided commitments, if the team doesn’t
currently have financial problems so that it can afford these mistakes, then
it’s going to have them four years or so after the new park opens. As long
as they make these kinds of mistakes, the team isn’t going to get better,
and after the novelty of the new park wears off, attendance will plummet
when the team is still lousy and wondering what went wrong. The problem is
that the Pirates are operating under a false assumption, one that’s guiding
what I’m beginning to think of as the Age of New Mediocrity. Teams are using
salary as a proxy for talent and quality, assuming that expensive players
must be good; that is exactly the lesson that this team, on the strength of
what it accomplished in 1997, should not have drawn. But instead the Bucs
have joined the rush to perpetuate the careers of perpetually mediocre (or
worse) players, players who haven’t earned the right to keep their jobs, but
who keep them because they were expensive, and possibly even good once or
twice in their careers. That’s no way to build a ballclub, unless your
organizational goal is play patsy to the Astros for the next decade.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed RHP Jose Mercedes to a minor-league contract. [3/1]

Yes, it’s the same wrong-way Mercedes with the bad wing who used to pitch
for the Brewers. Be ready to see some junk pick up velocity as it gets
pasted out of the park all summer in Vegas.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Designated UT Felipe Crespo for assignment. [3/6]

Like Jeff Patzke before him, Crespo finally gets the shaft from an
organization that couldn’t recognize that he’s every bit as good a
ballplayer as Joey Cora. He’s just not expensive enough to impress
either Belgian brewmasters or Gord Ash, but given the lousy track records
involved, I’ll give the Belgians the benefit of the doubt.