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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Signed RHP Mark Petkovsek to a one-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [2/10]

It’s nice to see a guy like Petkovsek, who didn’t make the majors to stay
until he was almost 30, finally get a payday of sorts. While he did have
the benefit of finally being left alone in a single role with the Angels,
after being jerked around by Tony LaRussa for a couple of seasons, his
contributions to the team were overstated by his superficially low ERA and
his 10 relief wins. He’s a durable and handy long reliever who isn’t a
great bet to have a year better than 1999.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Signed UT Andy Fox to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/13]

With Tony Womack taking over at shortstop and Travis Lee moving out to
right field, Fox will move back to the role he’s best suited for: spare
left-handed bat and primo weapon on the double-switch. On the Snakes, he’s
also handy for spot starting when right-handed batters like Matt Williams
or Jay Bell need a day off, or if Buck Showalter decides that playing
Womack at short isn’t such a good idea after all.

It would be fun to see Showalter go with an offense/defense platoon of Fox
and Luis Ordaz at short. That would provoke an interesting strategic
question: should you start your good gloves to help your starting pitcher
and bring in the better hitters if you need the runs, or should you go with
an offensive-oriented lineup to score runs and bring in the defensive
replacements with a lead? Earl Weaver tended to go with the Belanger types
on the field to start, and would work his way towards someone like Lenny
Sakata if he needed runs. I don’t think you even need to stick with one of
those choices: a lot would depend on what kind of pitcher you’re starting,
and whether the other team’s starter is someone you’re pretty confident you
can score against.

To get back to Andy Fox, he represents what I like to see: a lot of
flexibility. Here’s hoping Showalter puts him to better use this year than
he did at the start of last, before he resorted to him as an everyday
shortstop after Tony Batista was traded. Up to that point, Fox wasn’t used
much for pinch-running or pinch-hitting, or for starting anywhere around
the field.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed DH Billy Ashley to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [2/9]

While Ashley might make a nice little platoon mate for Harold Baines at DH,
it isn’t like the Orioles have the roster room to spare to carry two DHs.
Instead, he’ll get to threaten Cal Pickering’s playing time at Rochester.
This organization finds so many ways to build hurdles for its few talented
prospects.


BOSTON RED SOX

Signed RHP Rich Garces to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/12]

Signed RHP Bryce Florie to a two-year contract, avoiding
arbitration. [2/14]

Signed CF Carl Everett to a three-year contract, with a club option
for 2003, avoiding arbitration. [2/15]

Signing Everett to the multi-year deal isn’t really a risk: after giving up
at least the next six years of Adam Everett’s career, the Duke had to have
something to show for it, something more than just a one-year rental.

Florie has always been a talented pitcher, so the question is whether he
can be more than just this year’s Pat Rapp rabbit pulled out of the
proverbial hat by pitching coach/resident smart guy Joe Kerrigan.

I don’t know about you, but Garces’s beer-barrel physique doesn’t encourage
me to think he’s going to ever be good for more than 70 innings. As the
Yankees demonstrate with Jeff Nelson, though, sometimes a quality reliever
doesn’t have to be, as long as he’s available for the last month or two.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed RHP Greg McMichael to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [2/8]

Waived RHP Andy Larkin outright after he failed his physical. [2/14]

Who was the last palmballing reliever Ed Lynch dragged into town? Doug
Jones. While I think Don Baylor is going to do a better job with what he’s
got in the pen than Jim Riggleman did with he had, does anyone who’s clean
and sober really think that Matt Karchner, Brian Williams and McMichael
make for a good group of right-handed relief options?

Excuse me Cubs fans, because the following has nothing to do with the Cubs
per se. It’s just sort of an Andy Larkin-related tangent.

Right now, ex-minor-league-infielder Tim Harkrider is busy suing the Angels
for his lost shot at a career. It’s a bit of tortured argument in
Harkrider’s case, predicated on the idea that he’d somehow have turned into
a good player and made millions of dollars if he’d gotten proper medical
care in the Angels’ organization.

But Andy Larkin was rushed into the big young pitcher slagfest that Jim
Leyland mismanaged in Florida in 1998, was worked hard despite previous
concerns about his elbow and finished up by blowing out his shoulder. If
there’s a good test case of a guy being brought up before he was ready or
handled in a physically/medically irresponsible manner, Larkin might be the
one.

Considering that projecting a pitcher’s development is more an art than the
science of projecting a hitter’s development (which is why Harkrider’s
argument is weak, in my opinion), Larkin might have a half-decent case to
go after Leyland, Dave Dombrowski and the Marlins organization for acting
in a manner that was irresponsible towards Larkin’s professional future. I
won’t claim Larkin was that much of a prospect, but some people liked him
before the shoulder injury.

Should Larkin never have a shot at getting healthy, he may end up coming to
the same sort of decision that Tim Harkrider has. That could open up a
potentially huge can of worms in terms of very legal-oriented reviews of
how organizations treat their young pitchers. While it might be nice in
terms of encouraging organizations to be more responsible, it could also
end up being financially damaging and as divorced from useful evaluations
of real talent versus as an arbitrator’s recent decision to hand Steve
Garvey a bunch of money.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Signed RHP Bill Simas to a two-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/14]

A year ago, there was plenty of speculation that Simas would be gone
because of his pending eligibility for arbitration. Now, things have
changed for the Sox. Between last year’s successful run with one of the
major’s best pens, the expectation that this year’s rotation will need help
in the middle innings and the organization’s commitment to staying in front
of everyone else in the division while hoping the Indians come down a few
pegs, Simas is the recipient of a nice two-year deal.


CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired CF Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners for RHP Brett
Tomko
, CF Mike Cameron, 2B/SS Antonio Perez and RHP
Jake Meyer. [2/10]

Signed OF Alex Ochoa to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/13]

Signed RHP Osvaldo Fernandez to a minor-league contract with a
spring-training NRI. [2/15]

While there’s been a lot of speculation of who was outmaneuvering who in
the Pacific Northwest (Griffey? Pat Gillick? Sasquatch?), at the end of the
day, it was Jim Bowden putting on the moves. Has there ever been a better
example of a GM winning by waiting than Bowden’s job of watching the
Seattle snits play themselves out, all the while taking one good player
after another off the table?

In addition to the economic boon that acquiring Griffey represents for the
franchise, Bowden will have the added benefit of looking good in hindsight
because of who was sent away. While I’m one of those sunny optimists who
thinks Brett Tomko can turn into a top-notch starting pitcher, is there a
worse place (with Jim Leyland retired) to send a pitcher trying to
establish himself than to the slopes of Mt. Piniella? Its smoky crests are
already littered with arms stacked like cordwood, sacrificed to subdue the
eruptions of baseball’s most explosive manager. Tomko is supposed to be a
very intelligent sort, so maybe he’ll be mature enough to brush off his
manager’s thundering menace.

Mike Cameron is a decent center fielder, but he’s already 27 and didn’t
respond well when he was subjected to a manager inclined to criticize him
publicly (Jerry Manuel in 1998). Jake Meyer is a minor-league reliever, and
not a particularly good one. Antonio Perez’s future is the key to the deal,
but if he doesn’t stay at shortstop, then there’s literally no chance that
he’ll make Bowden look bad.

Signing Griffey to a heavily-deferred contract also puts the organization
in a great position as far as being able to retain or sign talent in the
future, which means that they’re in much better shape to run with the
Astros for the next four or five years. Deals just don’t get much better
than this for a team.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Signed RHPs Chris Nichting, Mark Pisciotta and Mike
Bovee
, Cs Matt Curtis and Cesar Devarez, 2B , IF Kelcey Mucker and OF Andy Tomberlin to
minor-league contracts. [2/8]

A mixed crop for the Riches to use at Buffalo, one that won’t make it much
easier for them to get back to contention in the International League.
Patzke and Tomberlin are both good offensive players who should help the
Bisons score runs, but overall, bringing in this lot is hardly a ringing
endorsement of the organization’s highly-touted player development approach.

Devarez made a wise choice coming to Cleveland, because there still isn’t
anyone available to back up Einar Diaz when Sandy Alomar’s knees continue
to act up.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Signed OF Roger Cedeno to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/7]

The interesting bit of news here is that apparently Cedeno and the money
the Astros gave him might have impacted the perception of Brian Hunter’s
value in his arbitration case. Just consider that another example of how
much work outfits like the Prospectus still have to do.


NEWARK BEARS (Atlantic League)

Signed SS Bobby Hill, the Chicago White Sox’s 1999 second-round
draft pick.
[2/10]

Here it is, Scott Boras’s latest client to "go the J.D. Drew
route". I know I’ve been going off on tangents in this column, but is
this really evidence that Hill will deserve oodles of cash come June?
Hill’s negotiating position with the White Sox was such that the club had
no hammer: he’s their draft pick, so if they don’t sign him, they get
nothing. Meanwhile, Hill can just bide his time, re-enter the draft the
next year and put another organization in the same position. He’ll insist
on getting what he perceives to be the value of a player of his caliber and
signing bonus expectations.

The interesting thing is that Hill’s talent isn’t considered anywhere as
extraordinary as Drew’s, and he may well get hosed by a general desire to
punish Boras in any way possible. My two cents? Chuck LaMar takes Boras off
the hook, and perpetuates their friendly relationship by nabbing Hill.
After all, it isn’t like Kevin Stocker is Honus Wagner, and there isn’t a
really good shortstop prospect in that organization beyond, arguably, Ramon
Soler, who’s still pretty raw at 18 and has only one full season at A-ball
under his belt.


NEW YORK METS

Claimed IF David Lamb on waivers from the Devil Rays. [2/7]

Added LHP Rich Rodriguez to the 40-man roster, designated IF
David Lamb for assignment. [2/8]

Outrighted IFs Mike Kinkade and David Lamb to Norfolk. [2/10]

Lamb… baaa… Lamb… baaa… Lamb… baaaad.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Signed OF Luke Wilcox to a minor-league contract. [2/8]

An Expansion Draft pick comes back home. Wilcox had an outstanding year
between Double-A Orlando and Triple-A Durham, pasting over 70 extra-base
hits. He’s hardly a prospect, but he should be a very important part of a
good Clippers team.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed RHP Paul Byrd to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/7]

Byrd is a great example of the kind of free talent you can find floating
around, sort of like Kent Bottenfield. The danger for the employer that
"discovers" him is that they can mistake a solid, useful season
as the start of something more, as opposed to correctly identifying
something like Byrd’s 1999 as his ceiling. Still, nobody should begrudge
him the money he’s getting after the amount of time he’s spent scuffling
between the majors and minors.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed RHPs Mark Leiter, Danilo Leon, Josias
Manzanillo
and Dave Stevens to minor-league contracts with
spring-training NRIs. [2/9]

An interesting group of retread/rehab projects for Gene Lamont and Pete
Vuckovich. While I wouldn’t have brought in Leiter, if there’s a good
candidate to "go Ritchie" this year, it might be Dave Stevens.
Well, if not Ritchie, then maybe Jason Grimsley. Stevens moved on from his
"Baby Goose" days coming up with the Twins, and could be a very
handy swingman if given the opportunity.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Signed LHP Alan Embree to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
[2/13]

It may just be me, but Embree still looks like one of the most underrated
left-handers in the game today. He was thrown away by the Tribe,
underutilized by the Braves and discarded by the Snakes. To Dusty Baker’s
credit, he gave Embree a slightly bigger role, and Embree ended up giving
the Giants one of the league’s best righty/lefty setup combos in baseball,
along with retread John Johnstone.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Acquired RHP Brett Tomko, CF Mike Cameron, RHP Jake
Meyer
and SS/2B Antonio Perez from the Reds for CF Ken
Griffey Jr.
[2/10]

The debacle. Pat Gillick did about as good a job of creating positive, or
at least non-negative, spin for the franchise in terms of moving Griffey,
but at the end of the day, this move is an unmitigated disaster.

Yes, Tomko is 27, and that’s a pretty good age for a starting pitcher to
settle down and break out. Sure, Cameron is better than someone like Tom
Goodwin or Brian Hunter. Yes, Antonio Perez is a decent prospect,
considering he was the youngest regular player in full-season A-ball. But
this deal does not help the team that much in its goal for this year, which
is to be competitive enough to convince Alex Rodriguez to re-sign, and it
does not help the team significantly in the long term if A-Rod walks.

So while Gillick did a nice PR job of creating a sense of inevitability
around the Griffey trade, he did a lousy job of cashing in on it, and the
franchise is the worse for it. They’ll have a hard time keeping up with
Oakland and Texas this year, and if they lose A-Rod, they’ll be keeping
company with the Angels in 2001.


SEIBU LIONS (Japanese League)

Signed 3B Tony Fernandez and DH Reggie Jefferson to one-year
contracts. [2/8]

The Lions needed the help: last year’s imports were stiffs like Alan
Zinter, Greg Blosser and Arci Cianfrocco, and despite their pathetic
"contributions" the Lions finished only four games back of
Fukuoka in the Pacific League. The Lions’ offense was among the league’s
worst, even beyond last year’s imports’ contributions, so Fernandez and
Jefferson should step right into the middle of their order.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Signed OF Kenny Kelly to a four-year contract. [2/9]

Voided their contract with ex-famous person Mariano Duncan. [2/11]

More of the soap opera: sign famous football player, discard utility man
over petty salary squabbles, continue to flounder.

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