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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed INF Norberto Martin to a one-year contract. [1/9]

Signed RHP William VanLandingham to a one-year contract. [1/10]


With the defections of Jack Howell and Craig Grebeck, the Angels were getting
pretty thin for utility infielders. Paco Martin may have his faults (mostly in
the field), but as a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner for Gary DiSarcina, he’ll be
handy. Of course, if Randy Velarde isn’t fully healthy, the Angels are in the
ugly situation where Paco may get more than 200 ABs.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed INF Andy Stankiewicz to a one-year major league contract. [1/8]


Buck Showalter picks up an old favorite, and this case of favoritism has an
astounding sticker price of $350,000. “Stanky” is your run-of-the-mill backup
to your first utility infielder, but in the Diamondbacks’ “buy nice” shopping
spree, he’s a beneficiary.

Signed LHP Mark Davis to a minor league contract. [1/9]


So, what exactly did the Brewers get out of picking him up for their “stretch
drive?” Was there ever a more feeble collection of stretch drive pickups than
Davis, Pete Harnisch, Darrin Jackson, and Paul Wagner?


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed 2B Mitch Simons, 2B/3B P.J. Forbes, RHP Kevin Gallaher, LHP Doug Johns,
and OF Scott Lydy to minor league contracts. [1/7]


Stocking up for Rochester, although add Scott Lydy to the list of people who
should be playing for the O’s instead of Joe Carter, even despite Lydy’s failed
Japanese adventure in ’97.

Added LHP Norm Charlton to the 40-man roster, and designated RHP Hector Ramirez
for assignment. [1/9]


Although Ramirez is hardly an outstanding prospect, this seems a bit premature.
There’s a very good chance that Charlton is done for good, and to make space on
the major league roster for him at all before he shows that he isn’t
constitutes a major risk.


CHICAGO CUBS

Invited RHPs Kennie Steenstra and Kerry Wood, LHP Ben VanRyn, Cs Jose Molina,
C/1B Alan Zinter, 1B/3B Tim Unroe, and OF Derrick White to spring training.
[1/6]


With the departures of Dave Hansen and Dave Clark, the Cubs’ bench is looking
sparse, so either of Zinter and Unroe could win a role as the first
pinch-hitter off the bench. Wood isn’t expected to win a job out of camp, and
Steenstra is being rewarded for his years of thankless service in Iowa. Of this
group, Ben VanRyn may have the biggest opportunity to make the club for Opening
Day, since the #2 lefty role behind Bob Patterson is empty after Ramon Tatis’
selection in the Expansion Draft. Its a role he can succeed in.

Signed RHP Rod Beck to a one-year contract, with a mutual option for 1999.
[1/15]


Ed Lynch is already telling all listeners about Beck’s “moxie.” Beck’s a
flyball pitcher moving to the next-worst NL location for the breed other than
Planet Coors. The only thing that bodes well for his future is that one of the
main reasons that Mel Rojas and Doug Jones, Ed Lynch’s previous unmoxious
closer selections, flopped as badly as they did was that both are pitchers who
need or prefer regular workloads, as opposed to strict pidgeonholing into the
“lead in the ninth,” three-outs closer’s role; Beck clearly is that type of
pitcher, and Riggleman’s habit of using his closer in this fashion will, at
best, not be unusual for either of them.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed DH Ruben Sierra and RHP Jim Bullinger to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [1/9]

Signed OF Lou Frazier and LHP Larry Casian to minor league contracts. [1/13]


In the background of the Sox’ youth movement, they’re tacking on some veteran
scrubs to challenge for some roles. Both Sierra and Frazier will contend for
the team’s perceived need for a LH-hitting OF, although both are clearly
inadequate options. Ron Schueler, in a rare moment of ebullience, is saying
Sierra’s lost weight, is playing with desire, and basically covering his own
tuckus for wasting valuable pen nub microns with the signing. Larry Casian has
an excellent chance to earn the job as the second lefty out of the pen behind
Tony Castillo, since the homegrown alternatives (Bertotti, Sirotka, or Fordham)
are all “unproven.” Jim Bullinger could win a job either in the bullpen, in
which case he may surprise many people as a successful long reliever, or as a
starter, where he’ll go through his usual cycle of putting up a good start when
he gets a weeks’ rest, and getting pasted as soon as he has to appear more
regularly than that.


CINCINNATI REDS

Signed CF Deion Sanders and RHPs Jose Rijo, Pete Janicki,
and Brian Keyser to minor league contracts. [1/8]


It isn’t expected that either Sanders or Rijo will actually play: Pine Time is
taking $5,000 per month in exchange for allowing the Reds to keep his rights,
and Rijo’s deal is basically the same sort of thing. Since Sanders isn’t a
useful baseball player, that’s good donut money down the tubes. Keyser should
be one of the anchors of the Indianapolis rotation, but he has the potential to
pull off a Rick Reed-sized surprise if a team wanted to just plop him into the
fifth slot of a rotation. Injuries ruined whatever chance the once-touted
Janicki may have had as a starter, and he struggled badly in his first year as
a reliever in ’97.

Re-signed 3B Pete Rose Jr. to a minor league contract. [1/12]

Signed OF Steve Gibralter to a minor league contract. [1/14]


Both are basic re-signings, although in Gibralter’s case, its the beginning of
his comeback from shoulder surgery, and in Rose’s case, its the most celebrated
minor league free agent signing of the offseason.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed 2B Carlos Garcia to a one year contract with a club option for 1999;
sold the contract of RHP Travis Driskill to Yakult of the Japanese Leagues.
[1/6]

Signed RHPs Jason Grimsley, John Ericks, and Jamie McAndrew and LHP John
Cummings
to minor league contracts with spring training NRIs. [1/8]


Signing Garcia is essentially a waste of ink. He’s older than his advertised
30, he has postage-stamp range afield, and isn’t a better player than Casey
Candaele at this point. If anything, this is a sign that Hart hasn’t made up
his mind about moving Enrique Wilson to second. Driskill has earned high marks
for his breaking stuff, and Japan may be the right place for him to sharpen his
command, possibly leading to a shot at being the first pitcher to follow
Fielder’s career path through the Japanese excursion. Of the veteran pitchers,
Ericks has an opportunity to be a major sleeper, even if the Tribe doesn’t
trade Jose Mesa, as rumored. Grimsley, McAndrew, and Cummings will earn their
keep in Buffalo.

Signed C Ron Karkovice, LHP Jimmy Williams, RHPs Andy Croghan and Anthony
Young
, C Sean Mulligan, and SS Brandon Wilson to minor league contracts, and
invited Karkovice to spring training. [1/13]


Although most of these signings are the usual additions to make the Bisons a
solid contender, Karkovice will be fighting with Pat Borders for the shot to
back up Sandy Alomar.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Invited RHP David Wainhouse, LHPs Bruce Ruffin and Mike Farmer, Cs Blake
Barthol
, Dan Cholowsky, Ben Petrick, and Mark Strittmatter,
1B Greg Colbrunn, INFs Nelson Liriano and Terry Shumpert, 2B
Tim Barker, and OFs Jeff Barry and Sherman Obando to spring training. [1/7]


Of this group, Liriano, Shumpert and Barker will all be fighting for the
utility role behind Neifi Perez and Mike Lansing, and since Baylor prefers to
let his starting lineup play as much as possible, that means little playing
time. Colbrunn is probably a lock for the roster, starting off as a veteran
insurance policy for Helton, and probably doing some snatches of platoon duty
for the entire season. He should also win the ace PH job that Baylor usually
slots one player for, although Obando has a small chance at that job.

Signed RHP Pedro Astacio to a four-year contract, with a club option for 2002.
[1/14]


The amazing thing here is that the Rox are spending the “windfall” of the money
they’ve saved from not re-signing Andres Galarraga, and they’re spending it on
pitching. A little more than two years from now, they’re going to be carrying
the extension they’ve given to Castilla, and the contracts they gave to Kile
and Astacio, and they’ll be either signing Neifi Perez and Todd Helton to
long-term deals or taking a shellacking in arbitration, and they’re going to
wonder where the money went.


DETROIT TIGERS

Extended manager Buddy Bell’s contract two years with a club option for 2001.
[1/12]

Signed OF Bobby Higginson to a four-year contract. [1/15]


The Higginson contract is two things: first, its a nice gesture that says that
the Tigers reward players that come up through the system, and second, its a
bit of a risk, since Higgy is a slow player with poor range who may be DHing by
the end of that contract. And its an open question about whether or not he
would have been the cheapest and best available hitter for the position.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed LHP Pete Schourek and RHP Reggie Harris to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [1/9]

Re-signed 3B Sean Berry to a one-year contract. [1/13]

Traded CF James Mouton to San Diego for RHP Sean Bergman. [1/14]


With the pickups of Moises Alou, Carl Everett, and Dave Clark, and the
emergence of Richard Hidalgo, Mouton was looking at a return to AAA. Instead,
the Astros got Bergman, who, with Kile’s departure and Holt’s injury, has a
chance to win a spot in the rotation, or at least revive his careeer as Russ
Springer did the year before. Schourek is probably ready to shoot his agent,
after they rejected the Reds’ “low-ball” offers last summer in expectation of
free agent swag. Whether or not he’s still damaged goods will have to be seen
in camp. Reggie Harris is at least one BP author fave, and the Astrodome is a
good spot for him to build on last year’s comeback. Although it was in doubt
for awhile, Berry’s return has created certain pressures: he’s most likely
going to spend much of the year platooning with Spiers at third, which means
that Russ Johnson’s will have to take his chances at shortstop against Ricky
Gutierrez and Tim Bogar. The organization has said it isn’t absolutely
convinced that he can play a full season on turf at short, so he may have to
settle for a utility role.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed RHP Brian Barber to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[1/5]


Barber is the Cardinals’ ’91 first-round pick who has endured injuries which
have wrecked what little command he had of his once-awesome fastball. With the
Royals’ continuing bullpen miseries, he may yet recover a career throwing in
relief.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed OF Thomas Howard to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[1/7]


Howard is a lock to be the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder, and once Todd
Hollandsworth falls apart again for the umpteenth time, has a chance to get a
big chunk of playing time, a la Wayne Kirby.

Signed RHP Mark Gubicza to a minor league contract. [1/12]

Signed 2B Eric Young to a four-year contract, RHP Darren Hall to a two-year
contract, and LF Billy Ashley to a one-year contract. [1/15]


Gubicza is basically an insurance policy for Denny Reyes at the fifth starter
slot. The Dodgers made the curious decision to give Young a four-year contract
the day after the Rockies had done the same for Pedro Astacio. For Young, the
timing couldn’t be better: his perceived (Coors-inflated) value is much higher
than his actual use. Meanwhile, Adam Riggs has to be wondering if he’ll get a
career. Darren Hall must have chutzpah’d his way into a multi-year deal,
similar to his loud proclamations last spring that he belonged on the team
(ahead of Antonio Osuna, as it turned out).


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Signed DH Bob Hamelin to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[1/14]


A dandy pickup, even if the Brewers are solemnly talking about how he’ll have
to watch his weight. The difference between Bob Hamelin and Paul Sorrento
(beyond oodles of cash) is negligible, and if Jaha breaks down again, the
Brewers are set with an excellent alternative. As is, they’ll have a dangerous PH
for NL play, and they’ll have a great option for their interleague games.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Signed RHP Ricky Bones to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[1/6]

Named Joe McIlvaine special assistant to the GM Terry Ryan. [1/7]

Signed LHP Dan Smith to a minor league contract. [1/7]


The Twins continue their acquisition campaign of other people’s washouts. Smith
was once a highly regarded prospect in the Rangers’ chain, but like almost
anyone drafted by Tom Grieve, he hasn’t worked out. Bones has an opportunity to
earn a rotation slot by virtue of not being Frank Rodriguez, since the
organization hasn’t regained its faith in him yet. Adding McIlvaine bodes ill
for minor league pitchers in the organization, since he oversaw (and gloried
in) the Mets’ “tough guy” approach to handling minor league pitchers, leading
to the workloads that ruined the Young Guns before they ever got started. If
I’m Mark Redman or Jason Bell, I’m asking to be a throw-in on an outbound
trade.

Signed RF/1B Orlando Merced to a minor league contract with a spring training
NRI. [1/12]


Memo to Chris Latham and Ryan Radmanovich: if you were thinking you had a
chance of making the team, forget it. Unless you’re old enough to remember
Jimmy Carter’s malaise, you’re just not in the mix. Merced isn’t the worst
possible bench player, and he’s certainly not a disgrace to Tom Kelly’s
preference to keep the honorary Randy Bush roster spot stocked, but the ’98
Twins are the oldest bunch of guys going nowhere (not even North Carolina) that
aren’t already in Baltimore.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Signed OF/PH Derrick May to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI.
[1/6]


The Expos are in desperate need of a corner outfielder who can hit. Derrick May
isn’t it, and would be hard-pressed to earn playing time in AAA.


NEW YORK METS

Requested waivers on LHP Joe Crawford for the purpose of sending him to Chiba
Lotte in the Japanese Leagues. [1/5]

Signed C Tim Spehr to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI. [1/8]


Why play ball with this intention? If I’m someone besides the Mets, I enter the
waiver claim and make Crawford a free agent, to see if I can get him. Of
course, he also stands to make considerably more money in Japan. Spehr will
enjoy an epic fight with Alberto Castillo for the job of being the
catch-and-throw guy backing up Todd Pratt until Todd Hundley comes back.

Signed RHP Masato Yoshii to a one-year contract. [1/13]


Yoshii will get first crack at the Mets’ fifth starter slot after finishing
fourth in the Japanese Central League in ERA for the Yakult Swallows. He’s a
soft-tosser, and obviously Valentine knows him.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed OF/DH Darryl Strawberry to a one-year contract with a club option
for 1999. [1/8]


I’m not against the idea of re-signing Strawberry as a potential platoon
mate for Chad Curtis, but if Ricky Ledee is healthy and puts up a good
month in Columbus, Straw should be riding the pine. It also begs the
question why the Yanks re-signed Raines as well, unless they intend to
trade O’Neill.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Named Jeff Leonard manager at Huntsville (AA). [1/8]


Just a happy tidbit to see for the man voted least likely to be on Dan
Gladden’s Christmas card list. Despite Mike Krukow’s old observation that
Leonard “was every white boy’s nightmare – an angry black man with a club,” the
Hit Man has made a name for himself as a successful minor league manager and
hitting coach, and if he succeeds at AA as well as he did in Modesto, will
start showing up on short lists for major league jobs shortly.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RHP Mike Welch to a minor league contract. [1/7]


Norfolk’s closer in ’97, Welch isn’t a good bet for major league success.
Expect him to fill the same role for Scranton in ’98.

Signed 2B David Doster and RHP Richie Lewis to minor league contracts with
invitations to spring training. [1/14]


Because of the pickup of Mark Lewis and the continuing presence of Rex
Hudler, Doster is basically out of luck as far as getting a crack at
the 2B job after a fine campaign at Scranton (.315/.370/.520). Mark
could potentially move to SS if Desi Relaford struggles and we see a
veterans’ revolt against the rookie; otherwise, Doster is out of
luck, and has to hope he inherits Kevin Jordan’s role.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed RHP Esteban Loaiza to a two-year contract. [1/5]

Signed RHP Todd Bussa, LHPs Steve Mintz, Kevin Tolar, and Steve
Wiegandt
, 1Bs Kevin Grijak and Dave Kennedy, and OF Phil Geisler to
minor league contracts. [1/7]


Similarly to last year, Cam Bonifay likes hoarding LH pitching (the
Buccos were the only team to have four lefties make over 30 relief
appearances). Bussa has been a successful reliever in the Detroit,
Florida, San Diego, and Oakland organizations by the tender age of 25.
He could be a major surprise with the Pirates. Grijak’s days as a
prospect have come and gone; its slightly sad that he’ll be behind Ron
Wright, who had superseded him in the Atlanta organization as well.
Kennedy enjoyed a big season with the St. Paul Saints in the Northern
League, and will have to settle for an A-ball opportunity. Signing
Loiaza means that three of the team’s four definite starters are signed
through 1999, with Jason Schmidt the next rumored long-term signee.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed RHP Kent Bottenfield to a one year contract with a club option for 1999.
[1/6]


Just as it was a good decision for the Cubs to avoid arbitration, its a
worthwhile investment for the Cardinals to have gotten him for less than he
would have gotten from the arbitrator ($700,000). With Mathews traded,
Eckersley and Fossas gone, and Honeycutt retired, the Cardinals, their are
plenty of opportunities in the Cards’ pen behind Jeff Brantley in the closer’s
role.

Signed RHPs Jose Bautista and Rusty Meacham, C Mike Stefanski, C/UT Reed
Secrist
, 1B Brian Hunter, 2B Roberto Mejia, and OFs Wes Chamberlain and Wayne
Kirby
to minor league contracts, and invited them (and RHPs Cliff Politte and
Braden Looper and LHP Rich Ankiel) to spring training. [1/13]


Hunter, Chamberlain, and Kirby are all fighting for jobs as pinch-hitters on
Tony LaRussa’s bench, and Bautista and Meacham are basically praying that
nobody out of the farm system opens TLR’s eyes in camp, so that they can extend
their middle relief lives for another month or two.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed LHP Mark Langston to a minor league contract with a spring training
invitation. [1/7]

Agreed to terms with 2B Quilvio Veras on a two-year contract. [1/8]


Langston claims he had no interest in signing until he could verify that his
elbow was sound, which is apparently the case now. He’ll fight with Sterling
Hitchcock and Pete Smith for the fourth and fifth slots in the rotation, and I
wouldn’t count him out yet. Smith has flubbed golden opportunities in the past,
and Hitchcock is coming off of two consecutive miserable seasons.

Traded RHP Sean Bergman to Houston for CF James Mouton. [1/14]


After already shoring up their rotation, the Padres weren’t likely to use
Bergman much, so acquiring Mouton was a case of both teams swapping from
strength. Mouton gives the Pads an outstanding defensive player who can
pinch-run and smack a LHP around, which, with Tony Gwynn and Steve Finley as
regulars, makes for a dandy sub to go with Mark Sweeney on the bench.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed minor league free agents RHPs Chris Brock, Jeff Darwin, and Rick
Huisman
, LHPs Dean Hartgraves and Eric Plantenberg, C Henry Mercedes, and INF
Matt Howard, and re-signed 3B Jeff Ball. [1/12]


Although the Giants may have room in middle relief, none of the pitchers have
good shots at roles on the club. Mercedes may luck into a job by virtue of
Dusty’s preference to carry three catchers.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed “OF” Glenallen Hill to a minor league contract with a spring training
NRI. [1/7]


At 32, Hill is old enough to play for Lou, who has already publicly hinted that
Hill could win the LF job outright from the dreaded Ducey/Amaral platoon. Hill,
Buhner, and Griffey will make for the slowest OF in the majors, and Hill and
Buhner’s range afield leaves alot to be desired, so the Mariners moundsmen
should be unhappy about this move.

Signed RHPs Jarod Juelsgaard, Randy Veres, and Doug Mlicki, LHPs David
Holdridge
and Andrew Lorraine, C Ken Huckaby, INFs Rico Rossy and Jeff
Berblinger
, and OFs Ricky Cradle and Jalal Leach to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs; invited LHP Ryan Anderson, RHP Andres Berumen, Cs John
Marzano
and Dusty Wathan, and OF Glenallen Hill to spring training. [1/13]


Anybody remember that Holdridge was traded for Lance Parrish once upon a time?
Okay, other than a few particularly bitter Phillies fans? Berblinger and Rossy
may have the best opportunities to win jobs as utility infielders, since the
competition is bad: Jeff Huson and Pat Listach. Hill, of course, is the
favorite to win the starting job in LF in camp, which means room on the 40-man
roster will have to be made for him.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed LHP Ryan Karp to a minor league contract. Signed GM Chuck LaMar to a
five-year contract through 2002. [1/13]

Signed SS Kevin Stocker to a three-year contract. [1/15]


Well, there’s a fine how-do-you-do: the results of what LaMar has done have no
results whatsoever, and he’s already being rewarded for it. Karp re-signed with
the Rays almost immediately after being designated for assignment. I’m no big
fan of Kevin Stocker, so it shouldn’t shock you if I said he’ll be a liability
by the end of the three years. Some people are talking as if he’s turned into a
good OBP guy, but he drew a whopping 44 walks in 560 PA. If he can build on
that, he may have a late-career surge similar to Spike Owen, but if he
regresses or stays in place, he isn’t helping.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed LHP Eric Gunderson to a one-year contract. [1/15]


The lottery for LH jobs produces some happy results for some. Gunderson could
easily be on a track similar to Dennis Cook.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed OF Jacob Brumfield and 2B Jeff Patzke to minor league contracts with
spring training NRIs. [1/5]


Brumfield will have the inside track to be the team’s fourth outfielder behind
the Stewart-Green-Cruz trio. Patzke ought to have first crack at the second
base job, but with the signings of Tony Fernandez and Pat Kelly, he’s doomed to
return to Syracuse.

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