American League

National League

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Acquired 3B-R Mike Lowell and RHPs Josh
and Guillermo Mota from the Marlins for
SS-B Hanley Ramirez and RHPs Anibal
, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey
. [11/24]

Acquired RHP Jermaine Van Buren from the Cubs for a PTBNL.

It’s probably more a commentary of my natural responses to some things that
has me as intrigued with the Van Buren pickup as with the Beckett deal. But
all in all, this is a pretty tasty swag for having dealt little of actual
value. Keep in mind, I never did get on the Hanley Ramirez bandwagon, since
I sort of expect it’s going to the same junkyard that the Rey
bandwagon wound up in. This is more a case of dumping a
general goody bag to get some fancy candy, with the Red Sox taking on the
penalty of employing and paying Lowell as the price for adding needed help
to their rotation and to their pen. I think it’s also realistic of them to
have dumped this particular package of prospects, because as much as I might
like Sanchez, it wasn’t like Boston’s the best place to be a young,
developing pitcher to break in. Better to trust that Mota and Beckett can
come to a town where they can either thrive, or be burned for communing with
the pinstriped devil.

Item by item, let’s start off with the most straightforward upgrade. The
additions of Mota and Van Buren provides relief help that Boston can clearly
use. As cute as it might be to have a matching set of situational
sidearmers, there’s no penalty for using plain ol’ non-freakshow quality
pitchers that you don’t have to protect from their platoon disadvantages.
Adding Mota and Van Buren to a pen that will have at least Mike
but also potentially Craig Hansen and/or a
resurrected Keith Foulke should definitely save the Sox
from having to troll in Harville waters again.

Lowell’s 32, and his deflation seems so complete, so thorough, that I don’t
care how expensive he may be, he’s going to be hard-pressed to keep his job
ahead of Kevin Youkilis. He’s done some damage against
lefties the last couple of years, so Lowell might at least make a plausible
platoon partner at first base, with Roberto Petagine or
whoever. At best, I consider it a melding of the roles of Kevin
and Bill Mueller.

Which leaves the question of whether or not Beckett can shore up a rotation
already notable for its age and fragility. Does adding Beckett’s tender
digits bode well for a team already struggling with whether or not
Curt Schilling or Matt Clement can return
to being themselves? High risk and reward ‘maybe’ pitchers aren’t really
what you want to have to count on, and as obvious as Beckett’s talent is, I
can’t help but wonder if this is more about hoping he’s a Yankee-killer
because of the ’03 World Series. Still, he is only going to be 26, and if
he’s never made thirty starts, he’s also never been worn down with overwork.
In Boston’s favor, they did successfully manage Pedro
through his highly-tailored usage patterns, so I’m willing
to believe that there’s some organizational memory in play. As a result, I’m
actually sort of optimistic that if anybody’s going to get Beckett to thirty
starts or 190 IP, it may be Boston. That plus Mota definitely makes up for
having to pay Lowell’s monstrously large salary in ’06 and ’07 ($9 million
per). I know, that’s what Dan Duquette said about picking up Mike
in 2000, but Beckett and Mota are going to do a hell of a
lot more for Boston than Rolando Arrojo ever could.

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Acquired 1B-L Jim Thome and cash from the Phillies for CF-R
Aaron Rowand, LHP Daniel Haigwood and a
PTBNL. [11/25]

Re-signed 1B-R Paul Konerko to a five-year, $60 million
contract. [11/30]

Count me among the ranks of the duly impressed. Kenny Williams just did what
Terry Ryan never has, which is demonstrate a commitment to excellence
instead of a satiety with mediocrity. This was a lineup that needed a
premium lefty bat, so Williams got one. Admittedly, it comes with an expired
warranty and a bum back, but the Sox will be paying less than half of the
contract’s value through ’08 (assuming they buy out 2009), and Thome will be
retiring to the more focused demands of a full-time DH. But again, I guess
I’m more impressed with what this move represents in terms of an aggressive
desire to improve than with any serious hope that Thome will go back to the
hitter who could carry a team by his lonesome. Placing Thome into the
lineup, perhaps between Konerko and Jermaine Dye, might
generate a lot of offensive innings crippled up by GIDPs and driving Ozzie
nuts, but it will also put more runs on the board, with plenty of the little
man tactics at the top and bottom of the order for Guillen to use in
maintaining his street cred as a little ball manager. And if the Sox do an
even better job of simply mashing while relying on a deep pitching staff,
that’s as timeless a formula for diamond success as the game can boast.

Beyond the upgrade on Carl Everett, it reflects a certain
confidence that they can turn to some combination of Brian
, Chris Young, Jerry
, and perhaps finally even Joe Borchard to
more than make up for the departure of Rowand, with Scott
‘s ability to play center potentially coming into play if
Young isn’t ready or the Sox would rather leave Anderson in left. Dye’s
contract runs out after ’06, so it isn’t like the Sox need all of the kids
to be ready at once, just one, and then another a year later.

With the Tigers looking like the bubble team (and waiting to be pricked),
and the Royals now traditionally DOA, you have give credit to Williams. Not
for simply winning, but for not accepting winning as enough, and for his
now-demonstrated sense to take winning in the immediate future seriously,
instead of settling for becoming a target for Mark Shapiro’s Indians. The AL
Central is about to become the division it was supposed to be before the ’94
work stoppage gummed things up, with the Cleveland-Chicago rivalry likely to
become the genuine best on the diamond while the Yankees and Red Sox
degenerate into an overhyped old-timers’ game.

The shame of all of this is that it means a White Sox team without
Frank Thomas, something beyond my ken, since Thomas has
been the Sock to follow for almost all of my adult life, and I’m past
counting my age in spring chicken years. Thomas is into that John
portion of his career, basically limited to the AL, and there
are only so many DH jobs to go around. An incentive-laden deal with Oakland
might make all sorts of sense, but the Yankees wouldn’t be a bad match.
After that, you’re into wondering about the Orioles. The Twins or Tigers
could use him, but both seem like strange hookups, especially since I don’t
think either the goody-goodies up in Minnesota or Jim Leyland would be all
that excited about bringing in the Big Hurt. So New York, Baltimore,
Oakland, or something dependent on another team making a deal, or something
undignified and irrelevant. Here’s hoping he gets a shot where it matters.

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Signed RHP Tim Crabtree to a minor league contract and
invited him to spring training. [11/25]

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Signed C-R Kelly Stinnett to a one-year contract. [11/30]

Talk about hitting the gold mine. Not only will the Yankees finally have a
major league player instead of a season ticket holder manning their backup
catcher’s slot, Stinnett might just have enough creaky-jointed veteran
credibility to appeal to the occassionally epicurean sensibilities of some
of the Yankees’ veteran hurlers. Unfortunately, he’s not Mr. Wizard with the
glove, and at 35, he’s really not an adequate replacement if something
happened to Jorge Posada. Not that it would matter; if
Posada were tossed into the crack of Mt. Doom, I suspect Yankee Stadium
would pitch over into the East River and the Boss would disappear in a
wailing flame of despair. What this team could really use would be a
latter-day incarnation of Jim Leyritz, someone to play
first or catch as needed, since you don’t want Jason Giambi
wearing a glove, and you’d rather not have to send Brian Cashman out for
elaborate tap-dancing in front of the Black Gate if anything happens to
Posada. Mike Piazza, perhaps?

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Signed RHP Esteban Loaiza to a three-year, $21 million
contract with a club option for 2009. [11/28]

Signing Loaiza to Benson money might seem like a pretty big risk, but
couched in those terms, I know I’d rather have Loaiza than, say,
Russ Ortiz, if last winter’s market can be used as any
indication. The problem with Loaiza is that the answer to the question ‘who
is he?’ is sort of ambiguous. Is he the career mediocrity who gave the
Pirates, Rangers, and Blue Jays workmanlike turn-taking? Is he the ace
starter the White Sox had on their hands in 2003, when he developed his
cutter? Or is he the Whitson-like pineapple surprise who exploded upon
becoming a Yankee? Or the simply solid starter that the Nationals had on
their hands last year?

I’m inclined to believe that it’s that last iteration that Oakland will have
on their hands: Loaiza’s
performance in 2005
wasn’t too dissimilar from his performance with the
White Sox before he went to the Yankees, and his strikeout and walk rates
were closer to those of his breakout in 2003. Just about the only thing
that’s shelved him recently have been pinstriped panic attacks, so I’m
inclined to believe that Oakland will have a durable third starter on their
hands. That makes him a good bridge between Rich Harden and
Barry Zito up front, and Joe Blanton and
Dan Haren behind, but it also frees Billy Beane to
entertain an offer for Zito that might be tempting enough to turn his head,
should one be offered. It also spares the A’s the heartbreak likely to come
if they’d entrusted a rotation slot to Kirk Saarloos, and
lets them leave Justin Duchscherer in the pen. I’m not too
busted up about not leaving a spot open for Juan Cruz or
Dan Meyer; both have plenty yet to prove, with Cruz perhaps
being better off in a long relief role, and Meyer returning to Sacramento to
improve on his performance there last summer.

If you’re an A’s fan, you’re hoping that this really works out, or that
Billy Beane can flip Loaiza faster than you can say “Terrence
.” Or “Mark Redman..”
Arthur Rhodes,” anyone? Happily, if Meyer or
Cruz do finally turn the corner, there is the depth in the organization to
afford Beane the opportunity to come up with another creative solution to
another self-inflicted quandary.

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Signed LHP B.J. Ryan to a five-year, $47 million contract.

Much as I like Ryan as the sort of lefty who can slag just about any hitter,
on either side of the plate, this deal strikes me as simply nuts. I realize
it’s part of a noisily-advertised win-now program, and that the other shoe
dropping as a result of this deal is that it gives the Jays the opportunity
to bounce Miguel Batista back into the rotation, rather
than spend money on a top-shelf starter. But that also means one less
opportunity for the team’s crowd of almost-ready or extremely tasty young
hurlers to join that rotation. Sure, I don’t think that Josh
will be able to hold off a Dustin McGowan
or a David Bush forever, but that’s just the fifth
starter’s job. Signing Towers to a two-year contract might not make it any
easier to deal him, but it wasn’t for huge money, and starting pitching’s
always in demand. I suppose things could get interesting if the Jays
non-tendered Ted Lilly, but I don’t see that happening. The
Jays might go into late March with pitching to peddle to help boost their
bid for contention, never a bad place to be. There, the question is whether
Ryan’s salary handicaps their ability to acquire something particularly

Subtract money from the equation (as if), and Ryan is obviously worthwhile.
He’s been relatively rubber-armed the last four years, and with a good
amount of situational lefty work mixed in with that, means even more warming
up than actual time spent on the mound. I don’t think he’s simply peaked in
terms of his performance on the mound the last two years as much as I think
he has demonstrated that he’s just better-suited for throwing 70 or 80
innings than he is for 50-60 in 60-70 games. Liberated by Lee Mazzilli, I’d
definitely agree to the suggestion that he’s blossomed, and that he’ll be
very valuable in the first two or three years of the deal. Sort of like a
movie producer being pitched on J-Lo’s latest vehicle, it’s the back end and
the expense that I’m worried about.

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Signed RHP Bob Howry to a three-year, $12 million contract.

Traded RHP Jermaine Van Buren to the Red Sox for a PTBNL.

I guess when you get past 50 and you’re a white American male, you’re given
to compensation gestures, but really, this is ridiculous. Assuming Ed Wade
ever learned anything from his travails, he’d no doubt caution Jim Hendry on
the wisdom of having spent so much on a bullpen trio of Howry, Ryan
, and Scott Eyre, but the fact that two of
them are White Sox castoffs and all of them are retreads with checkered
histories has me more convinced that Hendry didn’t learn anything from the
exercise of adding Matt Karchner for some nobody named
Jon Garland. Hendry wasn’t the GM in ’98, so that isn’t his
rap (it’s Ed Lynch’s), but he was the Director of Player Development, and a
witness to that particularly ill-fated move. And yet, nothing seems to have been
learned, not from that, not from Mike Remlinger, not from
Mel Rojas, not from Joe Borowski, not from
nothin’ or nobody. Farce, comedy, any of those general observations about
history and patterns and repeating themes, they all don’t matter, not when
you’re dealing a lemming-like will to power, or at least the nearest cliff.

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Signed SS-B Anderson Machado, 2B-R Aaron
, and RHP Jake Robbins to minor league
contracts with spring training NRIs. [11/30]

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Signed RHP Nate Field to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI; announced that LHP Randy Williams
cleared waivers and was outrighted to Colorado Springs. [11/30]

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Acquired SS-B Hanley Ramirez, and RHPs Anibal
, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey
from the Red Sox for RHPs Josh Beckett and
Guillermo Mota, 3B-R Mike Lowell. [11/24]

Acquired RHP Yusmeiro Petit, C/1B-L Mike
, and 3B-R Grant Psomas from the Mets for
1B-L Carlos Delgado. [11/24]

I have to wonder if the Fish are becoming the stand-in franchise that the
post-Loria Expos were, a storehouse for other people’s prospects. Loria can
afford to Huizenganate the franchise, after all: like Huizenga, he’s got a
ring, and like Huizenga, he can huff and puff all he likes, but the
porkbarrell piggies of state and local government aren’t going to build him
a new playpen, let alone invite him over for dinner. So what’s to happen? I
think Joe Sheehan’s spot-on, that this is a marked franchise where
contraction will be achieved as part of MLB’s all-fronts offensive against
the union over the new CBA. Like the on-again, off-again plans to shake up
the minors and the unsurprising decision to leave that for later, management
is piling up every possible negotiating chit. Threatening to dump a couple
of franchises serves as a double-edged bit of extortion, taking the players
down a peg while also making it easier to create alternative markets for the
Nationals or Twins or Athletics or whoever wants to threaten to move three
or five or ten years in the future.

As for running the filleted Fish, cannibalism as performance art was Dave
Dombrowski’s closing gig with the Marlins; considering he had a gun to his
head, he didn’t do so badly. In these deals, I guess I’m singularly
unimpressed with the swag acquired for this equally hurried teardown. Jacobs
is nice, but not enough to be that much more than a Rico
type at first, adequate filler until Jason
is ready to go. I’ve already expressed my doubts about
Hanley Ramirez, but to repeat, as niftily recent that the vintage of his
birth certificate might be, as a hitter, he’s basically got one good month
in Portland to brag about, and beyond all that, he’s just rough tools. Can
he be more? Certainly, but are the Fish the franchise that can finish this
particular diamond? I guess the question betrays my deepening skepticism.
Shortstop isn’t even an especially shallow position in the organization,
even with Alex Gonzalez‘s departure as a free agent, not
when Josh Wilson may be ready, and not with Robert
hanging around.

Still, despite all of that, this is probably the place where Sanchez and
Petit can blossom, and there aren’t too many other pitching prospects I’d
rather have if I had to tear down and start over. Both have the broad power
assortments you want, reasonably good command, and the boggy air of Joe
Robbie’s Support Hose Field is as good a place as any to learn and develop
at the major league level. My more cynical side can’t help but wonder if
this isn’t just an elaborate way for the Sox and Mets to let Sanchez and
Petit get seasoned somewhere better than the International League, up until
the point that arbitration prices them both out of the Lorians’ self-spiting
bottom line. Other little benefits of the deal include the likelihood that
Miguel Cabrera will stay at third, making room for both
Josh Willingham and Jeremy Hermida in the
outfield. Psomas might get more credit for prospectdom than he deserves; a
good Division I college player is supposed to be able to mash in the Sally
League, and Psomas did. Whether his power sticks in Double-A is a little
more dubious, but again, with Cabrera at the hot corner, there’s no rush.

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Re-signed C-R Chad Moeller to a one-year, $750,000
contract. [11/23]

Signed LHP Jason Kershner to a minor league contract with a
spring training NRI. [12/1]

Wowie! Just what every kid wants to find under the tree at the holidays, a
big, old-and-unimproved, exactly-the-same-as-last-year backup catcher.
That’s keen! The Brewers are doing so many other good things that it would
be overdoing it to belabor this small, unfortunate choice much, but having
Moeller and Damian Miller as the catching tandem simply
means that Ned Yost has an extra position to pinch-hit for besides his

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Acquired 1B-L Carlos Delgado and cash from the Marlins for
RHP Yusmeiro Petit, C/1B-L Mike Jacobs,
and 3B-R Grant Psomas. [11/24]

Purchased CF-L Tike Redman from the Pirates. [11/26]

Signed LHP Billy Wagner to a four-year contract. [11/29]

So what if Omar Minaya had to give up more than the Red Sox did in their
deal with the Lorians to get his particular fish? It still makes for a heck
of a story, and it wasn’t like Psomas had a future in David
‘s world. It’s a little unhappy to have had to give up
Jacobs, if only because the Mets could still use him behind the plate. But
in plugging Delgado into the first base hole that’s been a franchise problem
spot for years, a massive problem has been solved. The upgrade might be
worth five wins in the standings, enough to move the Mets from a nice
maybe/also squad to a strong challenger for both the wild card and a
division title amongst the lowering ambitions of their NL East rivals. A
pity it comes a year late, but Delgado seems like a solid bet to age well.

What I’m less enthusiastic about is the Wagner deal. As much as he may be on
the short list for the title of being the game’s premier closer, I’m more
than a little chary about how much of that is in the past, as opposed to how
likely it might be to be part of the landscape into the future. Keep in
mind, I accept that replacing Braden Looper was a must, and
that a life in which you don’t have to take flyers out on Danny
is a good thing. But with Wagner, given the constant concern
over his elbow, does anyone really think he can throw 70-80 innings in each
of the next four years? Anyone want to lay odds on the unlikelihood that
this contract can be insured? I guess I would have rather seen the team give
the job to Aaron Heilman, and save some of the money to add
another reliever or two, plus address their obvious need to get a catcher to
share time with Ramon Castro. (Yes, second base is
“open,” but I think the Mets can do just fine if they stick with
some sort of competition between Jeff Keppinger and
Anderson Hernandez.)

On a much smaller scale, I do like the Redman pickup. As a fifth outfielder,
he’s handy enough, I just hope that getting him doesn’t presage a godawful
platoon in right of Redman and Xavier Nady. There aren’t a
lot of ways to make people pine for Doug
-caliber performance in the lineup, but that might be
one of them, since effectively, the Mets have swapped Delgado for
Mike Cameron, potentially transplanting last year’s first
base lineup hole to the outfield. They can fix it easily enough, of
course–I don’t think anybody needs a motorcycle diary to come to the
realization that the time is now to FREE VICTOR DIAZ!–but some solutions
might be just too frickin’ obvious.

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Acquired CF-R Aaron Rowand, LHP Daniel
, and a PTBNL from the White Sox for 1B-L Jim
. [11/25]

Signed INF-B Abraham Nunez to a two-year contract. [11/29]

Signed RHP Julio Santana to a one-year contract. [11/30]

Signed C-R Sal Fasano to a one-year contract. [12/1]

I know my positive outlook on Pat Gillick’s arrival might have struck some
as odd, but again, I’m impressed with what has already been achieved.
Getting Thome out of the way was supposed to be Job One, and that’s exactly
how it was dealt with. I’m not crazy about the expense–$22 million is not
something you just shrug off–but the deal Wade signed Thome to was nuts at
the time, given Thome’s health history, and Gillick should be congratulated
for putting the slugger in the DH league for almost 50% of what the Phillies
owed him, plus getting a good center fielder out of the deal. Rowand’s only
just turned 28, so he should be more than solid enough as a two-year
solution, or at least until the Phillies get a sense of whether or not
Michael Bourn is going to pan out. Another virtue of
acquiring an everyday CF like Rowand is that it’s a needed add-on for a team
that’s going to need to invest roster space in a platoon partner for
Ryan Howard at first base. A particularly cool solution
might be to have Pat Burrell move in out of left field
against lefty starters, with Jason Michaels starting in his
place in the outfield.

Beyond that big move and how it changes the complexion of the lineup and
player usage patterns, forcing a more flexible and adaptable in-game
management style on Charlie Manuel, there’s the bench that’s being bought
for him to consider as well. I’m not a big believer that Nunez is ever going
to hit .285 or get on base at a .343 clip ever again, but a utility
infielder who doesn’t wilt under full-time use, one who can handle all three
of second, short, and third, and do the little man things at the plate that
sometimes come in handy (bunting and all that), that’s a good utility
infielder to have. Not that he’s Placido Polanco, but
having Nunez gives the Phillies a reserve infielder they can rely upon if
anything happens to Jimmy Rollins or Chase
that puts them on the DL and, unlike Polanco, won’t be
nursing a grudge about the role. As for replacing Todd
with Fasano, again, that’s a move I can endorse. Not that I
think Fasano can really step in should anything happen to Mike
, but he’s a solid enough receiver, still has the pop
that should have never been discarded so casually by the Royals or Rockies,
and if he hits somewhere around his career rates (.222/.302/.407), he’ll
again be one of the better backup catchers in the game.

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Sold CF-L Tike Redman to the Mets. [11/26]

Released OF-R Michael Restovich. [11/28]

Signed RHPs Britt Reames, Joe Roa,
Jason Roach, and Matt Whiteside, and INF-R
Jason Alfaro to minor league contracts with spring training
NRIs. [11/29]

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Re-signed OF-L Brian Giles to a three-year contract with a
club option for 2009.

I don’t like it, not for the length, not for the money, and not for a guy
who will be 35, 36, and 37 during the three seasons committed to. I guess I
feel about Giles about the way I did about the original Jose
: yes, he’s been a great player, and yes, he’s lost uncounted
numbers to his home environment. Yes, he’s a guy fans like to see, being
scrappy and pasty and dirt-covered and all of that stuff. And yes, it’s good
news that he’ll safely remain in right field now that Mike
is in center. Just as happy is the likelihood that
Ryan Klesko will move back to first base, leaving left
field to some combination of Dave Roberts, Eric
, and Ben Johnson, giving the Pads an
outfield with the speed to cover Petco’s expanses at all three positions.
Basically, I understand and like the intention of the design, and the
reconstruction of the lineup, particularly the adaptive re-use of Klesko and
Roberts in less-demanding defensive positions. The problem is that it
doesn’t necessarily add up to an effective lineup: Klesko’s already 34, and
just blocking Paul McAnulty, and the Pads already have to
live with what little they’ll get from Vinny Castilla, not
to mention the non-development of Khalil Greene as a
hitter. Greene can still break out, but I guess I see a lineup with a lot of
risk, some of it good, but in the end, it very much depends on Giles not
getting old anytime soon, and I’m not comfortable with that.

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Claimed RHP Jeff Miller off of waivers from the Pirates.

Signed RHP Tim Worrell to a two-year contract. [12/1]

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