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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Assigned OFs Darren Blakely, Nathan Haynes and Juan
Tolentino
and IF Brian Oliver to their minor-league camp. [3/8]

No surprises here, as the Angels demote two of their latest Norm Hutchins
clones (Blakely and Tolentino), and the lone prospect they got from the A’s
in the Oliveras/Velarde deal. Haynes may yet grow up to be more like Gary
Pettis than Kerwin Moore, but that’s not the kind of player-development
scenario that’s going to get the Angels out of the basement.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Traded 3B/OF Freddy Garcia to the Reds for RHP Dennis Russo.
[3/13]

Not a bad turnaround, in that the Braves get a live 20-year-old arm in
exchange for a waiver claim they made last September. The most important
feature of the deal is that the Braves needed the space on the 40-man
roster. While they’ll have another spot when they put John Smoltz on the
60-day DL, the fact is the Braves already have their preferences for who’s
going to be on the Opening Day roster.

Chances are that at least one NRI, Bobby Bonilla, is going to make it, with
Brian Hunter and Trenidad Hubbard hoping to crack the roster because of
Wally Joyner’s injury. Whether or not George Lombard makes the team will
impact these two (sadly, neither Ozzie Guillen nor Keith Lockhart have
comparable concerns). The Braves do have an added roster advantage in that
they don’t have to carry a backup outfielder who can play center field
because all three starting outfielders can handle the position. The most
you can say is that at least it’s a better group than most recent Brave
benches have been.


BOSTON RED SOX

Assigned RHP Willie Adams to their minor-league camp. [3/11]

"Welcome to Pawtucket, America’s city of splendor, and only a short
ride from even more interesting places. In 1853, the City Council declared
Pawtucket a whale-free zone, so please leave yours in the car or at
home."


CHICAGO CUBS

Assigned LHP Dave Zancanaro, RHP Kerry Lacy, Cs Mike
Amrhein
and Pat Cline and IFs Chris Petersen and
Brandon Wilson to their minor-league camp. [3/10]

Amrhein and Petersen got demoted to live mannequin duty against Kerry Wood.
When they did almost nothing against him in terms of putting the ball in
play, this was breathlessly reported as a sign of progress for Wood. As if…


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Assigned RHPs Rob Purvis, Jason Stumm and Danny Wright
to their minor-league camp. [3/7]

Signed LHP Jim Parque to a three-year contract. [3/10]

The interesting thing is that by all accounts, Parque got good money in the
deal. I think the Sox were wise to do it now. His horrible peformance down
the stretch has a convincing physical excuse (he was pitching with a bad
thumb), and he’s been relatively durable while not carrying a heavy
workload. He’s someone they ought to be able to get value from during the
life of the contract, and a very reasonable gamble.

What will be really interesting is to see how many teams are similarly
confident in their ability to evaluate player performance to identify who
is going to be good and needs to be inked for good money now
in anticipation of that, and which teams are going to continue to take
their lumps in arbitration or arbitration-induced contracts.


CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned CF Mike Frank, 1B Ron Wright and RHP Elmer
Dessens
to Louisville; assigned RHPs Pat Flury and Larry
Luebbers
, Cs Mike Hubbard and David Toth, IFs Mike
Bell
, Brandon Cromer and Brandon Larson and OFs Pat
Watkins
, Adam Dunn and Brady Clark to their minor-league
camp. [3/9]

Acquired 3B/OF Freddy Garcia from the Braves for RHP Dennis
Russo
; announced that Rule 5 pick LHP Adrian Burnside cleared
waivers and was sold back to the Dodgers. [3/13]

Many of these demotions could and should have been expected. There’s some
surprise that Dessens was sent down this soon, but the current leader for
the fifth rotation spot, Mark Portugal, won’t hold the job, and the leading
alternative, Osvaldo Fernandez, is no less of a bad choice. Dessens shold
be able to get his turn at some point. So, for that matter, may Luebbers.

The real surprise is that the Reds bothered to nab Freddy Garcia for the
40-man roster when he may have been back on waivers in a few weeks. It
makes even less sense when you consider that the Reds are already carrying
two utilitymen of dubious value in Chris Stynes and Mark Lewis, not to
mention burning a 40-man spot on a punchless pinch-hitter like Hal Morris.
In almost every non-Griffey way, the Reds don’t look to be a better
offensive team than they were last year. Clogging the roster with low-OBP,
underpowered sluggers with no defensive value doesn’t seem like a plan,
unless you want to camouflage Dante Bichette by giving the roster an
un-Mile High Fonzie flavor.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Optioned RHPs Danys Baez and Willie Martinez and 1B Danny
Peoples
to Buffalo; optioned RHP J.D Brammer to Akron
(Double-A); re-assigned RHPs Kane Davis, Roy Padilla and
Paul Rigdon, LHP C.C. Sabathia and Cs Heath Hayes and
Kevin Liddle to their minor-league camp; released RHP Brian
Barber
. [3/13]

The Baez project takes an appropriate back seat while the Tribe sorts out
how much progress Jaret Wright might make with a solid pitching coach like
Dick Pole instead of someone living off of his laurels like Phil Regan, or
the by-now-infamous Mark Wiley. I guess the aspect of the demotion that
bugs me is that they’ll still be burning spring-training innings against
major-league or near-major-league competition on broken-down old men like
Mark Langston and Bobby Witt.


DETROIT TIGERS

Traded C Gregg Zaun to the Royals for a PTBNL or cash. [3/7]

Acquired OF Wendell Magee Jr. from the Phillies for LHP Bobby
Sismondo
. [3/9]

Released RHP Mike Oquist; optioned RHP Victor Santos to
Toledo; optioned RHPs Shane Heams and Kris Keller to
Jacksonville (Double-A); re-assigned LHP Adam Pettyjohn, RHPs
Anthony Chavez, Edgar Ramos, Danny Rios and Doug
Walls
to their minor-league camp; claimed UT Shane Halter off
waivers from the Mets. [3/13]

A strange combination of moves for the Tigers. Moving Zaun obviously
creates a great opportunity for Rob Fick to actually back up Brad Ausmus at
catcher. That may not be entirely good news, in that it might cost Fick PAs
that he would have gotten at DH. It’s safe to assume that Ausmus is going
to get a majority of the playing time behind the plate. Armed with a
regular catcher, most managers prefer to keep their backup catcher
moldering on the bench, just in case something bad happens to the starter.
Will Phil Garner be comfortable enough to let Fick DH a few times a week,
with no backup catcher on the bench? There are a couple of potential
solutions. Maybe they’ll nab somebody to be a third catcher close to
Opening Day.

They’d have the roster space if they could make Gregg Jefferies disappear,
but for the money he’s making, they may just as well ask him to learn how
to be the emergency catcher. Even then, better to dump Jefferies and eat
the money if it makes space for a catcher that gives Garner the flexibility
to get Fick a well-deserved 400 PAs. On the other hand, deleting Zaun
definitely creates space to carry Magee, who may get a lot of playing time
in center field considering Juan Encarnacion’s obvious defensive
shortcomings. Given that the Tigers’ Opening Day roster is currently
saddled with at least three players of dubious utility in any phase of the
game (Jefferies, Luis Polonia and Karim Garcia) but especially defense,
Halter is probably guaranteed a roster spot because of his ability to stand
around at seven different positions.

I guess it’s nice to see they’re confident enough in the alternatives that
they don’t absolutely have to put Mike Oquist to work, but given how many
teams are looking for an adequate fifth starter, don’t be surprised if Okie
shows up on a roster near you.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Acquired C Gregg Zaun from the Tigers for a PTBNL or cash;
designated RHP David Lundquist for assignment. [3/7]

Announced that RHP David Lundquist cleared waivers and was assigned
to their minor-league camp; reassigned RHPs Jamie Bluma, Matt
Burch
, Jay Gehrke, Kyle Snyder and C Jeremy Hill
to their minor-league camp; released RHP Carl Dale. [3/11]

If Herk has a short-term goal, it ought to be to trade any catcher he has
to anybody who wants one for a player the 2001 or 2002 Royals can use,
preferably a shortstop. After all, consider who he’s got around: Zaun, Sal
Fasano, Brian Johnson and even Jorge Fabregas. None of them is that
special, or even significant upgrades on journeymen like Chad Kreuter and
Tim Spehr. Their redundancy is a small cache from which a smart GM might be
able to convert one or two into prospects he might eventually use.
Whichever two the 2000 Royals use now aren’t going to make that much of a
difference offensively.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Renewed 3B Adrian Beltre for 2000. [3/11]

Reacquired Rule 5 draftee LHP Adrian Burnside from the Reds. [3/13]

Like this is going to help their negotiating position as they try to keep
Beltre. "What was our counteroffer to Boras?" "I showed him,
I just faxed him a photocopy of my kiester, Mr. Daly!" "I have to
admire your attention to detail, Simpkins. You even signed the cover
letter."


MONTREAL EXPOS

Assigned RHPs Bryan Hebson, Michel Laplante and Yovanny
Lara
to their minor-league camp. [3 13]

Just sending away the NRIs before Felipe Alou has to start getting serious
about who’s going to crack the rotation. With Mike Thurman hurting and both
Antonio Armas and Ted Lilly out of the running, the only real issue is
whether or not Miguel Batista worms his way into the rotation past Jeremy
Powell, and not even that seems too likely.


NEW YORK METS

Waived UT Shane Halter irrevocably and unconditionally. [3/9]

Optioned RHPs Grant Roberts, Paul Wilson, Eric Cammack
and Lariel Gonzalez to Norfolk; optioned RHPs Lesli Brea and
Dicky Gonzalez and OFs Alex Escobar and Juan LeBron to
Binghamton (Double-A); re-assigned LHPs Jim Baron and Brian
Shouse
, RHP Paul Wagner, Cs Alan Probst and Jason
Phillips
and SS/3B Orlando Miller to their minor-league camp;
signed RHP Rene Arocha to a minor-league contract. [3/13]

What I’m interested in probably isn’t among the big issues on this team.
Will Bobby Valentine be smart enough to platoon Derek Bell with Jon
Nunnally? He’ll probably do it faster than you can say "Bobby Bo
Blows". Will they find a way to make Todd Zeile go away? Who cares?

No, I’m really excited about which neato retread will pitch better at
Norfolk, Paul Wagner or Rene Arocha. And will either of them get a clean
shot at bumping either (or both) Bobby Jones? Score this another reason why
the Mets can’t get too happy over John Smoltz’s bad news. Their rotation is
already bad, and it isn’t like they’ve got a Bruce Chen to spare. Heck,
Terry Mulholland would probably be the Mets’ third starter.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Waived RHP Jeff Juden outright; assigned RHPs Mike Buddie,
Todd Noel and Jay Tessmer, Cs Michel Hernandez and
Victor Valencia, 3B Donny Leon and OF Willy Mo Pena to
their minor-league camp. [3/7]

It’s a lonely job, feeling sorry for Jeff Juden, but if expansion is
supposed to bring opportunities to dubious pitchers, why isn’t Juden in the
majors? OK, besides the general perception that he isn’t the easiest hombre
to get along with? If I’m the Angels, I’m bringing in Juden and Mike
Oquist. Anything to spare the fans the indignity of another go-round with
Tim Belcher.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the only big news among these
demotions is that they’re really impressed with Todd Noel, which doesn’t
excuse the Cubs for throwing him away, or the Marlins for repeating the crime.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Assigned LHP Will Brunson, RHPs Bryan Corey and Frank
Lankford
, and C Chris Norton to their minor-league camp. [3/10]


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Traded OF Wendell Magee Jr. to the Tigers for LHP Bobby
Sismondo
. [3/9]

Assigned C Andy Dominique, IFs P.J. Forbes and Carlos
Duncan
, Nepotista Pete Rose Jr., 1B/OF Gene Schall, OFs
Josue Perez and Reggie Taylor and LHPs Brian Looney
and Jason Brester to their minor-league camp. [3/11]

Assigned SS Jimmy Rollins, RHP Doug Nickle, LHP Anthony
Shumaker
and C Johnny Estrada to their minor-league camp;
optioned RHP Manuel Barrios to Scranton. [3/13]

If there’s a surprise here, it’s that the Phillies decided to pull the plug
on Magee. You might optimistically interpret this as a sign that Pat
Burrell is going to make the team, but I’m thinking even that’s premature.
Bobby Abreu, Doug Glanville, Ron Gant and Rob Ducey are all under contract,
and utilityman Kevin Sefcik has considerable outfield experience. If I was
a Phillies fan, I’d be more frightened that moving Magee heralds a bench
loaded with all of the team’s middle-infield options, and that Terry
Francona isn’t going to realize that his team won’t contend with Marlon
Anderson and Desi Relaford pulling down lots of playing time and PAs.
Roster pressures are such that he can’t carry enough pinch-hitters to cover
for both of them and their potential substitutes.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Assigned RHPs Alex Pena, Mike Gonzalez and Danilo
Leon
, LHP Travis Baptist, C Yamid Haad, 3B Rico
Washington
, 3B Jarrod Patterson and OFs Alexander
Hernandez
, Adam Hyzdu and Ray Montgomery to their
minor-league camp. [3/9]

No shockers among this list of cuts, although I guess it’s a shame to see
the Jarrod Patterson campaign for third base come to such an abrupt end.
For all of the noise made over Aramis Ramirez’s defensive shortcomings at
the hot corner, keep in mind this is the team that made do with Ed Sprague,
and there’s literally no aspect of fielding at which Ramirez could be worse.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed 3B Fernando Tatis to a four-year contract, with a club option
for 2004. [3/12]

An outstanding move by Walt Jocketty, capping what was a steal of a deal in
the first place. Tatis will be the best player on the team over the life of
the contract. For the team’s offense, the variables are going to be whether
or not Tony LaRussa screws J.D. Drew, whether or not Mark McGwire stays
healthy and whether or not Ray Lankford can be the same hitter while his
knees slowly fade away.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Assigned IFs Jed Hansen and Kevin Nicholson, OFs Peter
Tucci
and Ethan Faggett, RHPs Luis Andujar, Jayson
Durocher
, Adam Eaton, Domingo Guzman, Oscar
Henriquez
, Rodrigo Lopez, Jason Middlebrook, Eric
Moody
and Wascar Serrano and LHPs Kevin Walker and
Derek Root to their minor-league camp.
[3/13]

For a team that nobody expects to be any good, there are some good pickings
in these demotions. If I needed bullpen help, I wouldn’t mind having
Andujar or Henriquez around to call up, and Eaton and Serrano are a nifty
pair of prospects. Sure, it doesn’t look like it’ll be a good year, but
there are some things for Pad people to like.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned OF Shane Monahan, LHP Sean Spencer and RHP Dennis
Stark
to Tacoma; assigned OFs Mike Murphy, Chad
Alexander
, Mike Neill, RHP Ryan Franklin and LHP Damaso
Marte
to their minor-league camp. [3/13]

You have to hand it to that crafty Pat Gillick: by signing Mike Neill to a
minor-league contract, he effectively guaranteed that one of last year’s
Pan Am heroes was a lock for the Olympic squad in Sydney. Too clever by
half, of course, since Neill is a better ballplayer than someone like Brian
Hunter, and less than one-tenth as expensive.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Waived OF Danny Clyburn; assigned QB Kenny Kelly, 3B Jared
Sandberg
, IF Eddy de los Santos, Cs John Marzano, Neil
Garcia
and Toby Hall, and RHPs Jason Standridge, Alex
Santos
, Todd Belitz, Cedrick Bowers, Travis Harper
and Reggie Harris to their minor-league camp. [3/8]

Again, an unsurprising list of cuts. Marzano chose to sign in the wrong
place at the wrong time. Paisan or not, the Devil Rays still can’t bring
themselves to deal Mike Difelice, and even then, they hauled in Mike Figga
as a potential backup to John Flaherty. Like the Royals, Chuck LaMar has
stockpiled guys a cut below mediocre, and needs to peddle them for
something. LaMar probably has this figured out, since he did manage to turn
a couple of months of Joe Oliver’s not-very-valuable time into
maybe-something/somebody Jose Guillen. Difelice’s value will never be
higher, and some teams (especially the Cardinals) could desperately use him.


TEXAS RANGERS

Assigned RHPs Jonathan Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Matt
Miller
and David Elder, LHPs Corey Lee and Juan
Moreno
, 3B Jason Grabowski, Cs Reed Secrist and Luis
Taveras
, IF Carlos Pena and OF Pedro Valdes to their
minor-league camp. [3/13]

The only bummer on this list is Pedro Valdes, who probably shouldn’t have
re-upped with the Rangers. Sure, how could he expect to get passed in
Johnny Oates’s mind by someone like Jason McDonald? But he’s put in the
time and they obviously don’t value him much, and he’s still capable of
starting for some major-league teams (the Padres and Mariners come to mind).


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Assigned IF Luis Lopez and RHP Mike Romano to their
minor-league camp. [3/9]

Optioned RHPs John Sneed and Gary Glover and IF Mike
Young
to Syracuse, and RHPs Pasqual Coco and Leo Estrella
and C Josh Phelps to Knoxville (Double-A); assigned OF Chad
Mottola
to their minor-league camp. [3/12]

Speaking of minor-league veterans choosing the wrong place and time….
Mottola comes off the best year of his career and signs with the Blue Jays?
With Jose Cruz Jr. in place and Vernon Wells on the way up? Do you really
want to have your future depend on people who can’t sort out how useless
Jacob Brumfield is? People who traded for Curtis Goodwin? And you’re
telling me that a man’s membership in the union is dependent on these sorts
of judgments? Strange days indeed.

You’ve undoubtedly already heard of them, but both Sneed and Glover need to
be remembered. Because of Jim Fregosi’s pattern of pushing his starters
hard, chances are both of them will end up making their major-league debuts
(debuts of any reasonable length, that is; Glover did pitch an inning for the
Jays in 1999)
this year. The Jays have pitching talent, but it’s going to be a damned
shame if Fregosi manages to out-Dallas Dallas Green.