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Signed DH-L Dave Nilsson to a minor league contract. [3/3]

Lest you forget, Nilsson was going to go to camp with the Red Sox last spring before deciding not to take a shot at his first big league action since 1999. He played with Chunichi in the Japanese Leagues in 2000, then tried to catch on with the Yankees late in the season. Then he failed a physical before 2001, costing him a solid chunk of change. It’s interesting to see him give his career one last spin, and there’s no way to know if he has anything left at this point. But given that the Braves may have to let Russ Branyan play some third, and will be breaking in Adam LaRoche at first, a longshot for some potential insurance makes sense.

As far as what could be expected, a four-year absence from the game is sort of like the holes left in several people’s careers by the Second World War (minus the saving Western Civilization part of the program, of course). But for every advantage players have now over then (conditioning and general health care, for example), there’s the stronger overall level of competition to consider. Basically, I’d be surprised if the Braves get anything out of Nilsson, which doesn’t make it a bad idea, it just doesn’t guarantee he’s a good one.


Signed RHP Jeff Juden to a minor league contract. [3/6]

So the Orioles elect to embrace the angry wind formerly known as Jeff Juden? People change, to be sure, but Juden was infamously immature, and worked a little too hard and a little too eagerly on gaining a latter-day Sal “the Barber” Maglie rep for working the inside corner. With the likelihood that several of the kids will be on the big league staff this summer, the Orioles can use a veteran hand or two in Triple-A. I just don’t necessarily see the wisdom of letting any young or impressionable pitcher work around Juden. But as I said, people change.


Signed LHP Damaso Marte to a three-year, $4.5 million contract with club options for 2007 and 2008. [3/2]

Outrighted LHP Corwin Malone to Charlotte; released RHP Robert Person. [3/5]

Marte’s contract also comes with options for 2007 and 2008, and seems to involve some pretty creative provisions for his getting bumped up even further should he be finishing games. That creativity can be taken two ways. Sure, it’s great that he’ll get a raise if he earns the closer’s job. On the other hand, if he’s left in a higher-leverage setup role, he could still be as important to the ballclub, while getting shafted in terms of never being able to achieve those incentives. If he cries dirty pool in a couple of years, he should realize he accepted the risk here and now.

Both Malone and Person are out for the year, so the Sox were merely clearing them out of the way. Having reinjured his elbow, some people think Malone could be done, but he’s still only 23 and he’s left-handed; if the world can wait for Matt Riley, assuming a successful surgery and rehab, a happier destiny could still come Malone’s way. It’s Person who may be running out of chances after tearing up an Achilles tendon. This will be his third consecutive season marred by or lost to injury. I suppose the Devil Rays will eventually call in another couple of years, but is that really a source of reassurance?


Added RHP Scott Elarton to the 40-man roster. [3/2]

This is being touted as a ringing endorsement of Elarton’s reconstructed shoulder and his chances of making the big league rotation, welcome news for all of us who have wished him the best since before our ill-fated advice to fantasy-minded fans to “GET SCOTT ELARTON” way back in 1999. The Astrodome and an uninjured shoulder have both receded into past history, and few players deserve as much credit as Elarton for helping generate TINSTAAPP, but here’s hoping he can claim some portion of a career for himself. Even if it means starting back up in Coors, which won’t help. Hopefully, he can set aside results related to balls in play a mile up, and focus on the results he has somewhat more control over at home plate.


Signed LF-L Geoff Jenkins to a three-year, $23 million contract with a club option for 2008. [3/2]

Signed 2B-R Keith Ginter to a three-year, $1.925 million contract. [3/4]

It’s interesting to see that Jenkins settled for money closer to the Brewers’ wish (last reported at three years and $20 million) than his publicized expectations. The real questions are if he’s a worthwhile investment at the price, and how much the rush to sign him was driven by a winter’s worth of public relations disasters. Jenkins could easily become the new financial millstone, following in the footsteps of such past luminaries as Franklin Stubbs and Jeffrey Hammonds, both also identified as key investments for a new and improved Brewers ballclub. Obviously, everyone hopes it actually works out. The potential benefit of achieving some cost certainty and theoretically making Jenkins that much more interesting to mid-season shopper is compromised somewhat by the political considerations involved in the aftermath of Ulice Payne’s revelations, local fury, and now the HBO feature on the state of feudalism in Beertown. If the Brewers feel they owe it to the fans to keep Jenkins beyond any reasonable proposition for helping them acquire something they can really build with, that isn’t progress, but it would be cowardice.

There’s not a lot to say about Ginter’s deal. Everyone gets an arbitration-free lifestyle for three years, he’ll give the team a hell of a useful near-regular. Plus, it’s another one of the new Brew crew of temps and journeymen getting a just reward.


Re-signed RHP Joe Nathan to a two-year contract extension. [3/5]

Apparently, like Marte’s, the value of Nathan’s new deal is tied to whether or not he winds up finishing games. And just as it makes for a decent risk from the club’s perspective, I guess I’m left wondering about the virtues of this sort of contract on another level. Does it make sense to have a manager’s list of in-season, or operational-level, decisions and in-game, tactical decisions influenced by the knowledge of who has a financial stake in the result? For the sake of argument, if Nathan works in middle relief because that’s where he’s needed, wouldn’t that create some ill will? I suppose the club could, out of a sense of fairness, comp the player somehow at season’s end, tearing up the old deal or giving him credit if earned, but it could just as easily become an in-season distraction.


Signed RHP Orlando Hernandez to a one-year contract. [3/7]

While much has been said about the Yankees’ rapaciousness and the ambition (and money) that fuels it, another element in play is fear. And rightly so; fear and hunger usually keep each other company. The Yankees rotation needs depth, and while El Duque may not be able to pitch in the big leagues until June or July, the odds are pretty strong that, by then, somebody else will have broken down, or Jose Contreras may have continued to disappoint. In gearing up for the season’s long march, it’s considerably easier to sign up a perceived failsafe–like inking a sixth starter–than it is to do something radical, like going to a four-man rotation. The odds that these Yankees would turn to a young starter like Jorge DePaula or Alex Graman, even in a notional fifth, oft-skippable slot, border on the astronomical.


Released OF-L Chris Singleton after he failed his physical. [3/4]

Yow, all of a sudden, Tike Redman’s free of much concern for his job safety as the Pirates’ center fielder. Ruben Mateo’s not really competition, and Tony Alvarez can’t really handle center field on an everyday basis. As for Singleton’s ear infection and how or whether that was related to the circumstances of his release, I know no more than you do about the situation.


Announced the retirement of LHP Norm Charlton. [3/7]

He means it this time. No, really, he’s done. His insane quest to outlast Jesse Orosco finally prompted an intervention by friends and family. His real last big league hurrah was in 2001. The last time he was effective in consecutive years was 1995-1996. Even so, he managed to haul in a half-dozen million dollars or so, while occasionally doing something useful now and again. That makes a pretty nifty example in terms of the benefits that come from hanging on, yet nobody’s going to accuse Norm Charlton of representing some sort of paragon of greed. Nor should they. If anyone deserves credit as well as criticism for Norm’s episodic persistence, it’s Pat Gillick. You have to hope they’re on each other’s Christmas card list.


Exercised their 2005 option on manger Felipe Alou; signed General Manager Brian Sabean to a contract extension through 2005. [3/5]

Not that I disagree with the decisions, but their extensions only run through 2005? Who are they, Lloyd McClendon? Considering his age, the decision on Alou makes sense on its own level, but I’m surprised that the Giants weren’t a little more determined to keep Sabean further into the future. Now that the feuding with Dusty Baker has played itself out to an appropriate denouement, you’d think that keeping Sabean would have ranked high among the organization’s priorities. On the other hand, with the window of opportunity for a Bonds-driven team slowly getting smaller, and with a relatively moribund farm system, I can see why Sabean might want the freedom to pack his bags sooner rather than later. Rebuilding this organization will be ugly and painful when the time comes, made worse by the near-total absence of promising hitting talent down on the farm.

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