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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Hired Jim Duquette to be Vice President of Baseball Operations. [10/20]

Hired Leo Mazzone as pitching coach, signing him to a three-year contract;
traded RHP Moises Hernandez to the Braves in exchange for
the negotiating rights to Mazzone. [10/21]

Hired Scott Proefrock to be Director of Baseball Administration. [10/25]

Now that he’s the sole surviving twin from the organization’s
duumvirate-oscopy, Mike Flanagan has been nothing if not busily making the
organization his own. There’s a very Atlanta sort of cast to things, what
with Leo Mazzone and one-time Devil Ray exec but former Braves staffer
Proefrock brought in. It might even all make sense, although the note of
caution that needs to be struck is that this was also what the Orioles
thought they’d achieve when they brought Tony DeMacio in as Director of
Scouting a few years back; DeMacio’s claim to fame was that he was the scout
who had found Tom Glavine. However, I definitely like much
of what’s happening here. With his past experience in player development and
his tenure as semi-interim General Manager of the Mets before they brought
in Omar “Andy Jackson’s burning a hole in my pocket” Minaya,
Duquette makes a nifty top lieutenant to Flanagan.

Mazzone’s now making twice as much money, which matters when you’re in a
six-figure tax bracket, and given that he’s coming home and working for the
man he calls his best friend–manager Sam Perlozzo–it all makes sense in
terms of the background info. Certainly, the club’s pursuit of Mazzone
suddenly makes the decision to retain Perlozzo look that much more
defensible in retrospect. However lackluster the Orioles looked under both
Lee Mazzilli and Perlozzo, that’s pretty small beer relative to landing one
of the best pitching coaches in the business. To put it another way, if one
of the most significant ways in which a manager can impact his ballclub is
through his management of his staff, wouldn’t you want a guy whose
connection to Leo Mazzone might help you land Mazzone? Wouldn’t that address
any concerns you might have about what young, talented hurlers like
Erik Bedard or Daniel Cabrera are going to
do in the future? Add in that Perlozzo did have an extended track record of
working as a coach for stathead fanboy icon Davey Johnson, and you don’t
even have to be an Orioles fan to wishcast this into being the best possible
field staff. Of course, there is that little matter of Mazzone’s past
sparring with former Braves prospect Bruce Chen, but I
suspect that Mazzone’s arrival in Crabtown will more than balance that out
by making Baltimore a promising spot for a free agent hurler to want to come
to. When you consider the difficulties the Orioles have had in the past as
far as coaxing free agents to sign with them, that’s a potentially very
happy development, or at least one that won’t make the club dependent on
another incarnation of Sidney Ponson.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Claimed LHP Bobby Madritsch off of waivers from the
Mariners. [10/21]

Don’t get worked up about how this might mean that the Royals have found…
well, by their standards, what’s success defined by? How about this:
Madritsch will not fulfill their pursuit of the next Darrell
May
. Not immediately, at any rate. He’s only just now getting
around to surgery to repair a partially torn labrum, and he won’t be back on
a mound until mid-summer. On his way off of their roster, the Mariners
classily griped that he wasn’t taking care of himself, but keep in mind,
that’s the Mariners, and since when have they managed any of their legion of
injured hurlers well? Anyway, snarking aside, it isn’t a bad claim by Allard
Baird, and should the Royals be able to keep him on the 40-man through the
next five months, they’ll be able to deposit him onto the 60-day DL before
Opening Day. That sort of matters when you’re the Royals, because the next
non-roster warm body could be the next Emil Brown.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Outrighted 2B/3B-R Keith Ginter to Sacramento. [10/20]

I wasn’t
enthusiastic about the decision to go out and get Ginter in the first
place
, although in saying that, I certainly had no premonition about
Mark Ellis‘s not having a mere comeback, but suddenly
turning into a genuinely very good ballplayer. At any rate, Ginter wants a
change of scenery, and the A’s are willing to oblige. As a position player,
he’s that classic problem, a utility infielder who can’t play short, so
whoever signs him either needs a starter at third or second who
could also serve as the backup shortstop, or they’re going to have to carry
another reserve infielder who can play short. That’s not easy, but there are
teams who have that particular combination: the Yankees, for instance.
However, as much as this was a lost year for Ginter, that’s the sort he
couldn’t afford. He’ll be 30 a month into the season, and he isn’t the type
to age well. If he gets guaranteed money instead of an NRI, tip your cap to
his agent.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired RHP Moises Hernandez from the Orioles in exchange
for the negotiating rights to pitching coach Leo Mazzone. [10/21]

Nothing any good comes for free, but since Mazzone was going to be a free
agent in only a few short weeks, this was essentially a tip for the Braves
doing the gentlemanly thing, and letting the Orioles and Mazzone get down to
business. Hernandez is young, Venezuelan, and has spent the last three years
pitching in the complex or short-season leagues. He would have to be added
to the 40-man if the Braves want to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but
given that he’s not yet even 22, they can probably take the risk and leave
him off. He’s doing something right so far in what is a very young career,
in that he’s logged 121 strikeouts in 134.2 stateside professional innings,
but beyond that, he’s a cipher.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Exercised their $8.5 million option on LF-R Carlos Lee for
2006. [10/20]

Superficially, this is a thoroughly unsurprising development, as the Brewers
keep their outfield corners set with Lee in left and Geoff
Jenkins
in right. But in a nutshell, the Brewers’ most important
decision over the next nine months is going to be what they do as far as
choosing between their pretty good veteran core and their more promising
almost-ready farmhands. Although they have an option on Jenkins for 2007,
Doug Melvin can pick his outcomes: should the Brewers be out of it before
the deadline in ’06, he can dangle either Jenkins or Lee (or both) for the
best available offers. Doing so would make room for Corey
Hart
(.304/.375/.530 at Triple-A Nashville this year) and/or
Nelson Cruz (27 home runs and a .537 SLG between Double-A
Huntsville and Nashville). It’s not too dissimilar from the situation Melvin
has with Lyle Overbay at first with Prince
Fielder
waiting in the wings, but Fielder seems like the best bet
to be ready by Opening Day after hitting .291/.383/.569 at Nashville this
season, so Melvin might be best off trying to trade Overbay before the Fish
get any more serious about dealing Carlos Delgado.

NEW YORK METS
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Announced that MLB has suspended LHP Felix Heredia for 10
days, effective at the start of the 2006 season, for violating the league’s
drug prevention and treatment program. [10/19]

If Heredia’s suspension must be served in the major leagues from the point
at which he returns to an active roster, this may well be a suspension that
effectively ends his professional career in this country. Let’s face it,
would you want to have Felix Heredia around for ten days in which you
couldn’t use him, just for the privilege of eventually being able to use
him? I seem to remember that something like this happened with a pitcher in
the ’90s, someone like Rick Huisman, a minor league veteran
who drew a big suspension after a brawl, got demoted, and who never did come
back up to serve his suspension. If a guy’s already borderline and did
something wrong, either he needs an angel in some front office somewhere, or
he’s going to have to get very used to choices that range from the far side
of the Pacific to Newark. Don’t be surprised if that’s Heredia’s lot.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Re-signed LHP Dave Williams to a one-year contract. [10/24]

Declined their option on RHP Jose Mesa for 2006, making him
a free agent. [10/25]

Williams chose to avoid arbitration or a winter’s worth of wonder. Can you
blame him? He did get $1.4 million, and for a guy who lost a good chunk of
his career to a torn labrum, a little bit of security goes a long
way. For David Littlefield, the real question is whether Williams is one of
the guys they keep in what bids to be an overcrowded rotation, or whether
they try to peddle him to someone with prospects, who needs pitching, and is
as budget-conscious as the Bucs have to be. I think it makes sense for
Littlefield to hold onto Williams for a while, perhaps well into the ’06
season. First, the club is going to have to sort out what’s going to happen
with Mark Redman, and then we have to wait until spring
training to see how Paul Maholm, Tom
Gorzelanny
, and Ian Snell look from among the
kids, whether or not John Van Benschoten is finally healthy
and ready, and whether or not Oliver Perez is going to
bounce back. With that much possibility and uncertainty, it makes sense to
hold on to a handy mediocrity like Williams.

As for the decision to not retain Mesa, having failed to move him for even
the smallest scrap last summer, this was a case of belatedly settling for
double-nothing: no prospect, however notional, and no great reward on the
field for having kept him (Mesa was the worst reliever on the club). There’s no satisfaction in
acknowledging the obvious, that he’s not a reliever you want to rely on in
consecutive seasons, but if last summer’s rumors that the Mets were
interested and dangling Victor Diaz have any validity
whatsoever, that’s a head-on-a-pointed stick offense if you fail to pull the
trigger on something like that. Hopefully, the Bucs won’t spend any serious
money on a purported spandex-clad superman for save-hogging, but
unfortunately, it remains the fashion of the day. Whether or not Littlefield
can bring himself to break with convention will be something to watch for
this winter.