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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed OF Orlando Palmeiro to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed IF Archi Cianfrocco and RHP Brett Hinchliffe to
minor-league contracts with spring-training NRIs. [1/19]

Signed RHPs Tom Candiotti and Steve Mintz to minor-league
contracts with spring-training NRIs. [1/24]

Bringing in both Hinchliffe and Candiotti underscores how desperate the
Angels’ starting pitching situation is. While Angeleno beat writers loyally
report Bill Stoneman’s stolid statements of faith in the pitchers he has
(why bother asking? who expects him to say "man, these guys will
suck"), he’s showing even worse taste in retreads than his
predecessors did. Candiotti is 42, as old as Joe Niekro was when he was
washed up. He didn’t pitch that well in 1998 and was worthless last year.
Hinchliffe might be the better choice to hand a dozen starts to until
someone like Brian Cooper proves he’s ready.

Palmeiro is still no more than an adequate fourth outfielder on a team with
bigger problems than finding a fourth outfielder.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed 2B Quilvio Veras to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed OF Trenidad Hubbard to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/20]

Not a bad move by Hubbard. He was treated badly by the Dodgers despite a
track record as a good-hitting fourth outfielder, and now he has a shot at
postseason glory. At 34, it was now or never. Hubbard can also play the
infield in an emergency, so he’s a handy bench player. If the Braves send
George Lombard back to Richmond, Hubbard will be their best option as a
backup to the ever-fragile Reggie Sanders. Unfortunately, that would mean
all the Braves’ outfielders bat right-handed.


BOSTON RED SOX

Signed DH Marty Cordova to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/19]

Signed C Tim Spehr to a minor-league contract with a spring-training
NRI. [1/20]

Signed IF Andy Sheets to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/23]

Pawtucket cries out for your thirtysomethings, your leaden of glove, your
slow of bat, your heavy of foot. However, there is the chance that all
three of these guys could break camp with the Sox. Cordova might get to
platoon with Trot Nixon in right field. Since Darren Lewis is locked in for
guaranteed money through 2001, the Duke will have to pull off a minor coup
to create roster room to carry Lewis, Cordova and Michael Coleman at the
same time. Either that, or Duquette will have to volunteer to do John
Harrington’s gardening for the right to eat Lewis’s contract.

Sheets enters a five-way fight for what should be two backup infield
positions, where the Sox already have Jeff Frye, Manny Alexander and Donnie
Sadler, plus Wilton Veras if they decide to be creative with at-bats, using
John Valentin as a backup at second and third when he isn’t starting at the
hot corner.

Now that Jason Varitek is established as the regular catcher, Scott
Hatteberg might be dealt, in which case Spehr could make a dandy caddy.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed RHP Matt Karchner to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed 3B Willie Greene to a one-year contract. [1/19]

Signed RHP Ismael Valdes to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/21]

Greene blew what could have been his big chance last year, barely hitting
his weight for the Blue Jays and getting sent back to Triple-A. Still, he
moves into another good situation, a good hitters’ park on a team that
could use a left-handed bat; a Greene/Shane Andrews platoon could be an
excellent third-base situation.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed RHP James Baldwin to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

I guess I don’t get some people. Some folks on the Chicago talk-radio
circuit are kvetching because Baldwin is going to get over three million
smackers for this year’s work. If Jerry Reinsdorf isn’t weeping himself to
sleep every night over what James Baldwin’s making, why should anyone else
get all bent out of shape about it? It isn’t like it’s his fault, or that
of the Sox. That’s the economic structure the game has created, and if he
stumbles through another disappointing Jekyll/Hyde season, with all the
pitching the Sox have coming up the chances are he’ll be non-tendered. If
he finally has a solid year, he’ll get a lot richer than this, and he’ll
have been worth every penny.


CINCINNATI REDS

Signed 2B/SS Pokey Reese to a one-year contract, and OF Michael
Tucker
to a two-year contract, avoiding arbitration with both of them.
[1/18]

Signed CB Deion Sanders and RHPs Mark Portugal and Johnny
Ruffin
to minor-league contracts with spring-training NRIs. [1/20]

There’s a good signing in there, but it isn’t the light-hitting second
baseman considered too valuable to give up for Ken Griffey Jr., or the
light-hitting fourth outfielder, or the broken-down starting pitcher or the
glorified pinch-runner taking a siesta from football. It’s Ruffin, who
could be more than just a good replacement for Skippy Belinda. Why the
Dodgers refused to use him instead of guys like Maddux the Lesser or Mel
Rojas or Jamie Arnold defies explanation. Ruffin is coming off of a good
year pitching in relief in Albuquerque (3.17 ERA, 66 strikeouts in 54
innings), and adds depth in case Scott Sullivan, Danny Graves or Scott
Williamson are worn out from last year’s heavy workload.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHP Steve Karsay to a one-year contract, aoiding arbitration.
[1/18]

Signed RHP Bobby Witt to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/19]

The rotation is set (Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley, Chuck Nagy, Dave Burba
and Jaret Wright), while Danys Baez will have to settle for long relief if
he makes the team. Witt is nothing more than veteran insurance, sort of
like Jeff Juden was for the Yankees last year. Hopefully, John Hart has
learned from last year’s mistakes with Orel Hershiser and Ron Villone, and
retains Witt for just that insurance value.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Signed IF Aaron Ledesma to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration; signed RHP Roger Pavlik to a minor-league contract with
a spring-training NRI. [1/18]

Signed OF Darren Bragg to a one-year contract. [1/22]

Signed RHP Billy Taylor to a one-year contract. [1/24]

Further fine-tuning from Dan O’Dowd. Darren Bragg makes a good fourth
outfielder, although whether he and Jeffrey Hammonds have enough cartilage
for even one pair of knees is an open question. Of course, his signing
means Derrick Gibson and Edgard Clemente are screwed, but neither of them
is a good enough prospect for O’Dowd to make time for, not when he wants to
improve now and can look forward to Jody Gerut in the next year or two.

Taylor is an outstanding situational reliever: he’s still tough on
right-handed batters, and doesn’t allow them to put too many balls in play.
Used with the understanding that all lefties are death on him, he can be an
outstanding bit player in a deep pen.


DETROIT TIGERS

Signed RHP Danny Patterson to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed RHP Hideo Nomo to a one-year contract. [1/21]

One more foreign import, and suddenly the Tigers rotation looks adequate.
With Nomo in the fold, they have three veteran standbys in Nomo, Dave
Mlicki and Scuffy Moehler. Jeff Weaver is still an outstanding prospect; if
he becomes more consistent, Phil Garner will have his ace. The fifth spot
could be C.J. Nitkowski, Dave Borkowski or Air Blair. That isn’t a great
rotation, but it’s good enough for the team to flirt with .500 if
everything breaks right. If the Tigers had built a great offense, it might
even be enough to push for second place or to frighten the Indians if they
stumble. They don’t have that great offense, so it’s unlikely that the
White Sox and the Royals will finish behind them.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Signed RHP Jeff Suppan to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[1/18]


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Signed SS Mark Grudzielanek to a four-year contract, with a club
option for 2004, and signed 3B Kevin Orie and RHPs Chan Ho
Park
, Dan Naulty and Terry Adams to one-year contracts,
avoiding arbitration with all of them; announced that OF Trenidad
Hubbard
cleared waivers and will file for free agency. (see Atlanta
Braves)
[1/18]

Signed C Chad Kreuter to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/20]

You’ve got a 30-year old shortstop. His strengths? He’ll paste singles. If
you’re generous, you might think he’s a middling defender. His speed has
been declining ever since he came up to the majors. In his best year, he
drew 30 walks. So you give this guy a four-year deal?

Forget what Brian Cashman said about small-market teams and their need to
spend wisely; if this is what Kevin Malone wants to do with the money he
feels he can spend after the salary dump of Eric Young and Ismael Valdes,
the Dodgers ain’t never gonna win nothin’, no-how.

Bringing Chad Kreuter in makes sense: Todd Hundley will be the starter and
Angel Pena needs regular playing time in Albuquerque to reclaim
prospectdom. Kreuter’s still a solid catch-and-throw type, and he’ll take a
walk once in awhile. He’s never been much against left-handed pitchers,
something Hundley could use from his caddy, but as mentioned above, this
isn’t a perfect team.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Traded LHP Bill Pulsipher to the Mets for SS Luis Lopez. [1/21]

The Brewers could afford to deal one of their worst starting pitcher
options for a guy who can actually play shortstop, especially considering
that Mark Loretta’s lack of range will be a problem. Lopez’s only sin was
that he outhit Rey Ordonez, both on the field and playing live-action
Rock’em, Sock’em Robots with St. Rey on the team bus.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Signed RHP Dustin Hermanson to a three-year contract, with a club
option for a fourth year, avoiding arbitration. [1/18]

Jeff Loria has finally found a good way to spend some of that money burning
a hole in his pocket. Inking Hermanson right now to Lieber money (around $5
million per annum) at 27 is an great move. He’s poised to bounce back to
his 1998 form, and the Expos’ offense should improve over last year.


NEW YORK METS

Signed 1B/3B Charlie Hayes to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/19]

Signed OF Curtis Pride to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/20]

Traded SS Luis Lopez to the Brewers for LHP Bill Pulsipher;
signed LHP Rich Rodriguez to a two-year contract. [1/21]

Yee-ha! buckle up for the Mets’ answer to cockfighting: the Bad Bobby Jones
versus ex-prospect Pulsipher for the fifth spot in the rotation. Steve
Phillips deserves "credit" for being able to procure someone
about as bad as the bad Jones for his rotation. Both players make Masato
Yoshii look like a Cy Young candidate.

Bringing in Rich Rodriguez is another strong hint that they’re trying to
move Dennis Cook, since they already have Jesse Orosco and John Franco. The
misfortune for the Mets is that Cook is the best of them, so it looks like
they’re undercutting themselves again.

If signing Charlie Hayes was Phillips’s idea of a way to irritate George
Steinbrenner, he may as well sign Graig Nettles.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed C Jorge Posada to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[1/19]

Invited the following players to spring training: RHPs Brandon
Knight
, Mike Jerzembeck and Domingo Jean; Cs Tom
Pagnozzi
, Chris Turner, Julio Mosquera, Victor
Valencia
, Michel Hernandez and Tom Wilson; 3B Mike
Coolbaugh
, SS Juan Melo, 1B Jon Zuber, OF Ryan
Thompson
and DH Felix Jose. [1/24]

Sometimes a manager walks into an organization and insists that the team
haul in a bunch of players from his old team. Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland
are great examples of this. But Joe Torre has been playing possum. He
waited for a few years, until he had enough pull to drag in the really
hopeless cases. Tom Pagnozzi? Felix Jose? It’s been awhile since either of
them played organized ball, and both of them will be awful if handed an
opprotunity now.

On merit, a long-suffering minor-league veteran like Tom Wilson deserves
first crack at backing up Jorge Posada, but Pagnozzi will probably get the
job if he’s healthy enough to tie his own shoes. Most of these guys aren’t
going to enhance the Columbus Clippers’ well-established expectations of
contending in the International League.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RF Bobby Abreu to a three-year contract and RHP Robert
Person
to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration with both of them.
[1/18]

A wise pair of decisions: Abreu is the second-best player on the team, and
long-terming him makes every kind of sense. Robert Person is a equally
prone to taters and injuries, and with Terry Francona around to run him
into the ground, giving him more than a year would be madness.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed IFs John Wehner and Eddie Zosky and RHPs Cory
Bailey
and Blas Minor to minor-league contracts; probably
invited the lot to spring training to boot. [1/18]

Signed IF Luis Sojo to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/19]

Signed LHP John Smiley to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/21]

The Pirates have some outstanding talent and some excellent prospects, but
Cam Bonifay can’t seem to resist the temptation to surround them with some
of the most godawful stiffs known to man. Considering the organization has
guaranteed contracts with Pat Meares and Mike Benjamin, why haul in Luis
Sojo? What’s he supposed to do, be Dale Sveum’s defensive replacement?
Chase Abraham Nunez all the down to Double-A?

The interesting gamble here is Smiley. If his broken arm has fully healed,
he wouldn’t be the first retread success story for Gene Lamont and pitching
coach Pete Vuckovich.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed the following players to minor-league contracts: RHPs Jim
Dougherty
, John HudekMike James and David
Wainhouse
; Cs David Benham, Steve Bieser, Henry
Mercedes
and Marc Ronan; UT Casey Candaele; IFs Luis
Garcia
and Lou Lucca; and OFs Glenn Murray and Ernie
Young
, all with spring-training NRIs. [1/19]

You knew, you just had to know, that Tony LaRussa was going to get his
hands on Casey Candaele someday.

Ernie Young wouldn’t be the worst fifth outfielder in the world; if
anything, signing him has come a year too late, as the Honorary Willie
McGee roster spot is already being wasted on Thomas Howard.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Signed RHP Brian Boehringer to a one-year deal, avoiding
arbitration; signed 2B Jed Hansen to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/18]

Boehringer should get a clean shot at the rotation, but it would be
interesting to know if his agent and Kevin Towers settled on the
expectation that that will happen, or if he was compensated only on the
basis of what he’s done so far.

Jed Hansen has earned a shot at the majors, but with a very similar (and
significantly more expensive) player in Bret Boone at second, and with
Damian Jackson and Chris Gomez at shortstop, there won’t be roster space
for him. He’s already moving down the David Rohde/Jason Hardtke/Brian
Raabe/Todd Haney career path.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed RHP Felix Rodriguez to a two-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [1/18]

Signed 3B Russ Davis to a minor-league contract. [1/24]

Davis is a nice little upgrade on Charlie Hayes, so the Giants gain a wee
bit of depth. Sadly, Davis’s career doesn’t look like it will significantly
outlast that of the man who arguably wrecked it: Wade Boggs. I guess he and
Scott Cooper can kick back over a couple of beers and kvetch on the day the
Chickenkiller is elected to the Hall of Fame.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Signed C Joe Oliver to a minor-league contract, with a
spring-training NRI. [1/20]

Another return engagement for one of Lou Piniella’s 1990 veterans. Because
Tom Lampkin is also under contract and the Mariners don’t have the roster
spots to spare, I expect Oliver will have to meet Lou for beers in Tacoma.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed C Mike DiFelice to a two-year contract. [1/18]

Signed RHP Terry Mathews to a minor-league contract with a spring
-training NRI. [1/20]

Mathews doesn’t really have a shot; he’s only around in case one of Rick
White, Esteban Yan, Albie Lopez or Jim Mecir breaks down.

Inking DiFelice now to a multi-year deal now could inflate his trade value
this spring, and considering that there are some teams with godawful
catching situations (the Cardinals, Brewers and Angels, for instance),
Chuck LaMar would be wise to start shopping.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed OF Pedro Valdes to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [1/18]

Remember as far back as 1996? Remember the raging debate over who had the
best-looking future of the Cubs’ outfield prospects: Doug Glanville,
Valdes, Robin Jennings or Brooks Kieschnick? Valdes was the youngest,
Glanville the oldest, but Glanville is the only one who was given an
opportunity and kept it, thanks to his extraordinary learning curve. At 26,
Valdes could still carve out a career for himself if he gets lucky, but
time is running out.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Signed 1B David Segui and RHP John Frascatore to one-year
contracts, and C Alberto Castillo to a two-year contract, avoiding
arbitration with all of them. [1/18]

Signed 2B Homer Bush to a three-year contract. [1/19]

An unsupervised Gord Ash might be one of the game’s worst GMs. First the
mismanaged Segui situation, then casually discarding Pat Hentgen and Paul
Spoljaric for nothing of value, and now multi-year big money for a
light-hitting catcher and the new Damaso Garcia? Segui, Castillo and Bush
are players due to have worse years immediately, and Segui and Castillo may
never have another good year in their lives.

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