|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ANAHEIM ANGELS||Return to Top|
Outrighted OF-L Curtis Pride to Salt Lake. [10/14]
His certain fate, to be sure, and one which will no doubt be an item of interest to any diehard Expos fans as appropriately moved by the memories Jonah Keri did such a compelling job of resurrecting recently. Expo absolutists? Snicker all you want, but some people still follow these guys around, after all.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Outrighted OF-R Darnell McDonald to Ottawa; purchased the contract of RHP Jacobo Sequea from Bowie (Double-A). [10/15]
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Signed RHP Cliff Politte to a one-year, $1 million contract with an option for 2006. [10/4]
Outrighted LHPs Josh Stewart, and David Sanders and RHP Enemencio Pacheco to Charlotte. [10/7]
It seems the going rate for a near-adequate veteran setup men is about a million per, so I suppose there’s some way to think that Politte at this price is a solid enough deal. With Shingo Takatsu and Damaso Marte due $2.5 million and $1.5 million respectively in 2005, and Neal Cotts and Jon Adkins not likely to see big raises, the Sox could expect to spend something like $6 million on next year’s bullpen. It isn’t that simple, of course, since either Cotts or Adkins could be bumped into the rotation to step into the spot that would be left vacant if Scott Schoeneweis leaves town, and the Sox have to sort through whether they want to deal with an arbitration raise for Jon Garland. So, they could still end up hauling in a pricier reliever, or perhaps just a situational lefty. Even with Magglio Ordonez and presumably Jose Valentin coming off of the rolls, they’re supposed to be coveting Omar Vizquel, which added to various options and likely raises eats up a good chunk of whatever dividence they had. And in the rotation, they still have Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras costing a few pretty pennies, and neither are all that likely to suddenly give the Sox a big three at the front of the rotation with Mark Buehrle. After what was another year of South Side non-achievement, it’s already turning into an interesting hot stove season.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Declined their option of SS-B Omar Vizquel; outrighted RHP Joe Dawley to Buffalo. [10/9]
Purchased the contract of LHP Scott Sauerbeck from Buffalo. [10/13]
Re-signed RHP Bob Howry to a one-year contract. [10/22]
I definitely like picking up Howry for next season, and despite his recent implosion, I still harbor some hope that Sauerbeck could be retreaded into a useful situational lefty. Certainly, the Tribe shouldn’t have to endure the same sorts of debilitating failures that handicapped their pen much of last season.
Elsewhere, the Indians pay a further penalty for last winter’s mistakes in picking their 40-man roster. They preferred Ochoa to fellow shortstop Hector Luna, and lost Luna to the Cardinals. Not that Luna is a future All-Star, or that the Indians will necessarily miss either now that both Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta have good 2004 seasons under their belts, but the decisions to keep Ochoa and Laker on the 40-man still strikes me as a strange sort of roster largesse. Last year’s deal with the Expos, flipping Maicer Izturis and Ryan Church, reflected the extent of the problem of having perhaps too much talent in-system. They have Phillips and Peralta still in the system, and Church might be the only guy in this group that might make the Tribe miss him.
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
Claimed OF-L Alexis Gomez off of waivers from the Royals. [10/1]
Claimed RHP Colby Lewis off of waivers from the Rangers. [10/8]
Ugh. Wise is the definition of a wasted spot on the 40-man, especially during the winter. Gettis and Gomez are much more interesting choices, since both can boast instances of hitting at Double-A. Gomez seems to have stalled since his brilliant 2002 Wichita campaign (and the revelation that he was born in ’78, not ’80), while Gettis seems to have lost his way in 2004. Neither should be an everyday center fielder, but this is the organization that employs Alex Sanchez, which opens up the range of possible alternatives to just about every stick-bearing biped on this or any continent.
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||Return to Top|
Outrighted RHP Jimmy Serrano to Omaha; re-signed OF-L Aaron Guiel to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [10/15]
In case there’s any doubt about what the flavor of the future at Kansas City’s hot corner will be, it’s Teahen. Allard Baird might go pick up some appropriately long-of-tooth and short-of-contract old-timer as a placeholder, in case of an injury or a setback for Teahen, but the Epoch of Joe Randa has ended, with no more likelihood that he’s going to be a Hall of Famer than Kevin Seitzer ever had. A 35-year-old who had trouble slugging .400 shouldn’t command a big asking price, but demand for third basemen in general is strong enough that Randa will get a decent deal somewhere.
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Claimed C-R Corky Miller off of waivers from the Reds. [10/1]
Designated LHP Joe Beimel for assignment. [10/6]
I know the Twins are talking about re-signing Guzman, but here’s hoping they move on and start taking their place in the AL a little more seriously. There’s a bumper crop of shortstops on the market, so the Twins don’t have to overbid too aggressively. The lineup is crying out for an impact hitter, and people like Nomar Garciaparra might favor a short-term or one-year contract to renew their potential for a really gigantic deal after the 2005 season. Settling for Guzman would simply reflect an appropriate cheapness and a continuing lack of ambition.
Nabbing Miller’s a great pickup for a team sadly burdened with two damaged catchers and Henry Blanco, it’s just unfortunately a few months too late for them to have avoided the indignity of hauling Pat Borders onto a postseason roster. For next season, however well Joe Mauer and Matt LeCroy heal up, at least the Twins could potentially wind up with a third catcher who can do more than catch. If that then frees up Blanco to be a throw-in on a deal where the Twins really help themselves, so much the better.
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS||Return to Top|
Declined their 2005 options on RF-R Jermaine Dye and LHP Chris Hammond; outrighted RHP Kirk Saarloos, 1B-L Graham Koonce, 2B-R Esteban German, C-B Mike Rose, OF-R Mike Edwards and OF-L Billy McMillon to Sacramento; purchased the contract of OF-R Nelson Cruz from Sacramento. [10/15]
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Re-signed LHP Ryan Anderson to a minor league contract. [9/30]
Fired manager Bob Melvin. [10/4]
Named Mike Hargrove manager, and signed him to a three-year contract. [10/21]
I suspect Melvin can’t be fired enough for some people’s tastes. What is it with the Mariners and epically, infamously bad managers? I didn’t think they could do worse than Bill Plummer, but Melvin had his moments. He was an ambitious tactician, if that’s the right word for it, since he seemed to have an unflappable faith in one-run strategies that seemed ill-suited for a team that had to rely on station-to-station thumpers like Edgar Martinez or John Olerud. It probably isn’t fair to judge him too harshly, however; he was handed the job of presiding over a veteran team in decline, and as expected, it declined.
Whether or not he’d have been the right man to oversee a team in transition will remain unknown. Hargrove isn’t a terrible choice for recycling, assuming he remembers how things were in Cleveland at the beginning of his career. He walks into the job with one prime asset still in place, in that pitching coach Brian Price has been retained. In what seems like a nice turn of events for both men, the decision came with everyone’s agreement, as opposed to Hargrove and Price being put in the difficult position of having to work together while Price goes into the last year of his contract.
|TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS||Return to Top|
Released OF-L Midre Cummings. [10/13]
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
Outrighted RHP Mickey Callaway to Oklahoma. [10/12]
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
Named John Gibbons manager for 2005. [10/4]
In life, we all settle. That doesn’t mean we’re happy about it: how many more Hot Stove Leagues will have some smoke rising from old flames like Whitey Herzog or Davey Johnson? But those are cases of where there’s smoke, there’s just smoke, and the fire died long ago. Now we gather kindling for the hope that Bobby Valentine is this winter’s phoenix, or the excitement of wondering if Jim Fregosi or Bob Boone might get their turns on the Lazarus shuffle.
So you can forgive the Jays for not entering that particular market. The question might instead be if, after this summer’s debacle, J.P. Ricciardi had the political capital to go after a deserving no-name. But the deserving no-names of today are increasingly the organizational under-wardens of centrally-managed player development programs. Minor league managers don’t manage teams to win as much as they manage talent with instructions and warning labels. The Weavers or Martins of the future aren’t coming out of the minor leagues; they either have to leap from Zeus’ brow, fully-formed, or they die ignominious organizational deaths down on the farm, labeled as untrustworthy mavericks.
So what does my long-winded lament have to do with John Gibbons, you might ask? Well, beyond the move representing the path of least resistance, a path taken again as it trod before with Carlos Tosca, I’m fretting about the state of managing in the game. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I’d love to see baseball, as an industry, embrace a principle that works in business, in education, in politics, and in the military, and start creating some post-graduate educational options. If professional development programs are good enough for other industries, why not baseball?
Davey Johnson or White Herzog or Dick Williams or Earl Weaver may never manage again, but wouldn’t the industry profit from off-season seminars where major and minor league coaches and managers could listen to them lecture on in-game tactics or season-long player usage? Wouldn’t listening to Herzog and even Chuck Tanner talk about the running game be useful? Having Weaver discuss big-inning management, or Gene Mauch talking about bunting…the point isn’t to force people into one brand of thinking about how to win ballgames, as much as to put them in touch with a generation of managers who tackled some of these gambits with a refreshing diversity of opinion.
I know, it’s silly. In an industry built around the principle of privileged kleptocracy, asking for improved standards of professionalism probably seems a bit goofy. Here’s hoping that Gibbons turns into something, and here’s wishing there was a way to help make it so.
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS||Return to Top|
Signed Zinter to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [10/12]
For those of you still hoping that Zinter turns out better than Rico Brogna in that challenge trade between the Mets and the Tigers in 1994, I suppose you can keep hoping. I shouldn’t laugh; I’d have been counted among your number. I suppose the catty comment would be that Brogna didn’t really add up to all that much, since his major career achievement seems to have been pillaging the Phillies’ treasury from 1998 to 2000, but that doesn’t involve Zinter, the Tigers, or the Mets. I guess the Mets come out a little ahead for having dumped Brogna for lefty Ricardo Jordan and sidearmer Toby Borland in 1996, since they avoided the expensive part of Brogna’s career. But then you’re left wondering if you’d trade Zinter for Borland and Jordan. Heck, Borland, like Zinter, is still standing, and everybody loves lefties…as long as Philadelphia keeps footing the bill for the leavenings of the deal, it all works for me.
|ATLANTA BRAVES||Return to Top|
As always, weaker siblings can assume that their lot in life is to be shunted aside once the practical difficulties of keeping them around as roster baggage come home to roost. Tim Drew has never lived up to his hype, but you might have harbored some hope that the Braves’ vaunted ability with pitching talent would have given his career new legs. You can probably stop doing that, even if Drew turned 26 just a couple of months ago. As with any pitcher, he might find resurrection somewhere, but don’t lose sleep over it.
|CHICAGO CUBS||Return to Top|
Purchased the contracts of LHPs Will Ohman and John Koronka from Iowa; outrighted OF-L Nic Jackson, OF-R Calvin Murray, and C-R Mike DiFelice to Iowa. [10/13]
Ohman makes for an interesting story, since he lost 2002 and 2003 to arm problems, and he managed to pitch a pretty full season for Iowa this year, posting a 75-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 52.1 IP. Koronka had a nice year in the rotation, so either could come in handy going forward…except both have to depend on somehow catching Dusty Baker’s fickle eye, and both haven’t been basted with the veteran seasoning that seems a permanent fixture on Dusty’s roster menu.
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Outrighted OF-L Jacob Cruz to Louisville. [10/7]
Claimed LHP Ben Kozlowski off of waivers from the Rangers. [10/8]
Re-signed OF-R Jason Romano to a minor league contract. [10/9]
Extended manager Dave Miley’s contract through 2006 with an option for 2007. [10/10]
Purchased the contracts of RHP Todd Coffey and LHP Brian Shackelford from Louisville. [10/13]
I’m really pleased to see Miley get this sort of security; once in a while, a minor league manager gets a break he’s earned, and he runs with it. I suppose it also means a few nails in the mail to the lamentable Mr. Rose. No instructions needed; he’s gotten plenty of practice putting them into his own coffin for the last 20 years. It makes for a happier future, where a manager who knows everyone in the organization can add a lot to a GM just now entering his second year in the big chair.
Elsewhere, some really nifty minor moves. Nabbing Kozlowski now is a great pickup. This was his recovery year after Tommy John, so next year, he might be poised to challenge for a job in the rotation at some point. It beats recycling Jimmy Haynes, certainly. Keep the names of Coffey and Shackelford in mind; they didn’t get Ryan Wagner’s press clippings, but both could end up being guys with upside if they sneak into the back end of the bullpen in camp next spring.
Shackelford you probably know; he’s the former college slugger who was converted into a full-time lefty reliever by the Reds in 2003 after they picked him up from the Royals. If you can cram a pinch-hitter into a situational lefty’s job, you’ve got a player you might be able to use nearly every day, in either role. Keep in mind, though, that Shackelford’s no Kieschnick: he’s probably a better pitcher, and nowhere near the hitter. He’ll make for an interesting roster choice.
The lesser-known of the two is just as interesting. Coffey’s a ’98 41st-round pick out of a North Carolina high school, and a good example of what can happen with high school pitchers: sometimes they turn into something. Sometimes. When picked, he was 17, and went through a bumpy road in terms of growing into a career. It took him four years to reach a full-season league. But in the last year or so, Coffey lost weight and picked up a fastball, and totally blew the Southern League away this summer. But again, he’s a ’98 pick, and to be fair to him and to the organization, he needed the time. I’d like to see him make it, as a reminder to old- and new-school player development types alike that high school pitchers do make it, but it’s silly to invest too much in any one of them.
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Outrighted LHP Luis Martinez to Colorado Springs. [10/9]
Declined their 2005 option on RHP Steve Reed. [10/18]
|FLORIDA MARLINS||Return to Top|
I have no idea why Wathan’s been added to the 40-man, but Dillon pasted 39 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, so even if you’re going to turn 30 in August ’05, it’s the sort of thing a team can afford to be curious about.
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Activated SS-R Adam Everett from the 15-day DL. [9/30]
So, since he wasn’t really part of the torrid finish, would you use him? The Astros decided the answer was yes, but that simply reflects their failure to gear up and get some help for their bench during the stretch drive and into October.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Announced that 1B/3B-L Robin Ventura has announced his retirement. [10/11]
Declined their 2005 option on RHP Elmer Dessens; outrighted INF-R Jose Flores to Las Vegas. [10/15]
Ventura went out quietly, but he’s one of those guys I’m really going to miss. Beyond the nifty defense at third, something I’m always partial to, he’s one of those guys who really turned in a hell of a career. I remember the initial fears of White Sox fans, that he wouldn’t hit for power, that his bat had been Hriniak’d into lifelessness, that Larry Himes had overreached in picking him. Instead, he was one of the core players on a team that could have run with the Indians deep into the ’90s if Jerry Reinsdorf hadn’t overreacted to the labor wars and frittered away everything that had been built up by ’93. It’s been a long decade for Sox fans since, with opportunities squandered, but through 1998, he was that steady star that Sox fans could warm to. Predictably, Reinsdorf turned on Ventura in his frustration, which freed him to get a shot at the World Series (as a Met), and into the playoffs a few extra times. Given the Hall of Fame’s historic lack of consideration for really, really good third basemen, Ventura probably has about as much of a chance of reaching the Hall as Graig Nettles, which is to say, not a very good one:
Player G H AVG/OBP/SLG EqA* HR RBI Nettles 2700 2225 .248/.329/.421 .274 390 1314 Ventura 2079 1885 .267/.362/.444 .289 294 1182 Santo 2243 2254 .277/.362/.464 .293 342 1331 *All-time Equivalent Average
Tossing in Santo for comparison, since he deserves it. Ventura’s career is probably too short to qualify by any consideration on the basis of counting or rate stats, so the only place his jersey will hang is Bridgeport on Chicago’s South Side, assuming Reinsdorf can forgive and forget and grant Ventura an honor he earned every bit as much as Harold Baines. We’ll have to see. All I know is that for this one-time starving grad student in Chicago in the ’90s, Ventura was the best reason to go catch a game.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
Outrighted RHPs Jesse Harper, Travis Phelps, and Ben Ford, C-L Mark Johnson, and UT-R Trent Durrington to Nashville; activated 2B-R Junior Spivey from the 60-day DL and LHP Chris Capuano from the 15-day DL. [10/6]
Re-signed RHP Gary Glover to a one-year contract. [10/8]
|MONTREAL EXPOS||Return to Top|
Released RHP Dan Smith. [10/12]
It is with enormous relief that I consider the prospect of buying season tickets and not have to worry about Einar Diaz becoming my bete noir on my new favorite NL team. Backup catchers are meant to be beloved answers to trivia questions, the secret password between overly serious fans of a team. They shouldn’t be memorable for an absurd contrast between the paycheck and the performance.
|NEW YORK METS||Return to Top|
Named Omar Minaya General Manager; named Jim Duquette Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations. [9/30]
The Mets seem to be gunning for baseball’s most adrift franchise, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that they’re revisiting the strange management structures of the early ’90s, and not firing anybody, just making room for newly-found more-favored sons. I might just be me, but I keep thinking back on Al Harazin, although Minaya’s much more of a baseball man than Harazin was. And Minaya does have a track record with the Mets, and I suppose Duquette had to have signed off on the idea. Still, I expect there’s a bit of discomfort, moreso than there had to have been after the disciplinary steps that had to be taken against Steve Phillips, steps that still fell short of going far enough.
To focus on the baseball part of the problem, I have my doubts. Not that being freed from his Montreal sentence can’t be a relief, I have this sense that there’s this expectation that Minaya has put in nothing but admirable work during his stint with the Expos. That’s a bit overstated. There have been some completely indefensible moves, above and beyond the ‘I was only following orders’ moves (Vlad Guerrero’s being non-tendered was the worst of those). Like Jim Bowden, I have to wonder if Minaya with money is really going to generate all the good things that are expected of him. Still, the circumstances of his work with the Expos are so far beyond the normal experiences of any other job within the game that, beyond the odd non-tenders and even more odd contract soak-off moves (the Expos were always a great place to stick an unwanted contract), we may very well have no idea about what sort of moves Minaya will make. He might even act more decisively than he did running the Expos, since he’s trading a number of masters for one standard-issue Big Apple loon/tycoon.
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||Return to Top|
Fired manager Larry Bowa. [9/30]
Claimed LHP Aaron Fultz off of waivers from the Twins; announced that RHP Felix Rodriguez has exercised his $3.15 million player option for 2005; exercised their $9 million option on LHP Billy Wagner for 2005. [10/15]
When Larry Bowa was fired by the Padres, he was at the top of a lot of people’s lists of unrecyclables. You know, the managers who would never reappear. Not like those coaches pressed into duty in September, because with those guys, you never know. For as many Moose Stubings, you do get a few Tom Kellys. No, Bowa was one of those one-term managers who, like Franklin Pierce, you try to shrug off as a bad idea nobody wants to repeat. I suppose he can hang out with the other grognards left over from 1980, kibitzing and complaining about the direction of the franchise, which ought to be just another reason why, if you were a candidate for the job coming in from the outside, you’d have to wonder who’s really running this team.
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
Released RHP Nelson Figueroa. [10/12]
Outrighted RHP Mark Corey to Nashville. [10/14]
Purchased the contract of C-R Ronny Paulino from Altoona (Double-A). [10/15]
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
It’s almost certainly a symptom of being at this too long when you ponder how much spleen you’ve vented over a decade about Kerry Robinson or Ricky Stone or Jay Witasick. Is bile an exhaustible resource? Do I have to start referring to my spleen as “Old Faithful?” Would a splenectomy change my state of mind?
Bah humbug, navel-gazing is for connoisseurs of belly lint. There are worse choices for fifth outfielder 11th pitcher than Robinson or Stone, but both should be restricted to spring training NRI deals, meaning good old-fashioned March job battles and trying to win Grapefruit or Cactus League kudos. As a low-leverage pinch-hitter and swap-in for defense or a designated pinch-runner, Robinson can be handy. A situational right-hander who tries to make a living keeping balls in the infield, Stone’s failure to thrive in San Diego should keep him on contingency shopping lists.
The potentially handy pickup is Witasick, but he’s a Bob Barker item. If the price is right, he can be a useful fifth wheel in a big league bullpen. If he’s expecting a better shakedown than that, I suppose the Mets are always gullible about this sort of thing.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Activated Steve Kline from the 15-day DL. [9/30}
Presumably, he was good to go and primed for some postseason glory, because you wouldn’t think that Tony La Russa’s willing to put Ray King in an outfield corner against right-handed hitters because he’s short a lefty. You could do that with Todd Worrell and Ken Dayley because they were great athletes; with King, he’s a tremendous talent in his niche, but he’s life’s chocolate to Terry Forster’s vanilla fudge. But since Kline was subsequently left off of postseason rosters, La Russa was in a precarious tactical position, and Kline was offended. Not that it mattered; those are the little bitter fruits left over from a sound thrashing. Now Kline’s certain to wander off to another employer, while the Cardinals will have to add a second lefty to their shopping list. That isn’t the end of the world, but it will be interesting to see if Kline will thrive in an environment where he pitches fewer games and more innings.