By Adam Conn, Founder
Rating Baseball's off-season moves
Welcome back to the Hot Stove League running commentary, where I rate the major (and minor) off-season moves throughout the league. Plenty of hirings, firings, dumpings, and resignings still going on. Track 'em all.
October, November, December, and January.
Arbitration numbers and status appear at the bottom.
Best off-season moves of February 2005:
- 2/18/05: Maura Villarreal, mother of Ugueth Urbina, is freed after five-month captivity by Venezuelan police. Urbina reported to Tigers camp on the 22nd, his first appearance with the club since late September. Kudos to the club for being incredibly supportive during his ordeal, including exercising a $4 million option in November.
- 2/17/05: The World Umpires Association ratifies the five-year labor deal with Major League Baseball, resolving the grievances over the computer evaluation system as well as rehiring 3 more of the 22 umpires tossed during the 1999 labor dispute.
- 2/2/05: Cardinals extend the contracts of Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty for three years. Biggest no-brainer in the business, but this team would easily fall apart without both these guys firmly entrenched.
- 2/14/05: Barry Larkin calls it a career. While he had arguably his best season since 2000, it was clear that his days as an All-Star were over after 12 appearances in 19 years, four Gold Gloves, and an MVP award. The 4th pick overall in 1985 out of Michigan, he contributed to the club immediately in 1986. He won a World Series ring in 1990 as well. But injuries dogged him, as he only appeared in 90% of his team's games eight times, two of those seasons shortened by strikes. As a result, he's on the borderline of being a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate. He's boosted by playing for one team for his career, his MVP, and All-Star appearances. But the last four years of his career and ugly negotiations with the Reds during them may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of voters.
- 2/18/05: Major League Baseball adds Rule 6.02d(1)
and 6.02d(2) to the rules of baseball, to be enforced in the minor leagues beginning this year. However, the rule lacks one important scenario broken bats. There is no provision for a player fetching a new bat if his is broken. While he may call time, he cannot leave the dirt area to retrieve a new bat. This will force the batboys to run back to the bat rack, then all the way to home plate. Given the speed of the average batboy, this will enhance game dalays.
This does help fulfill the last of six suggestions I made back in September regarding abuse of rule 6.02b.
- 2/7/05: Tigers add Magglio Ordonez to the ballclub. While $75 million is a lot to gamble on a player with bad knees, they do have an out in the deal if his knees collapse again. While his first thousand games showed that Ordonez can be a star, it's his next one thousand that will determine how he's remembered. If he can continue his +.900 OPS, he'll be a bargain at $75 mil. Especially if the Tigers win the division in the next year or two.
- 2/2/05: Marlins add Jim Mecir to the club. With his club feet, Antonio Alfonseca's extra fingers, Mike Lowell's missing... well, let's just say the trainer will be have to update his reference books. This is a great signing for the Marlins, who needed someone dependable in middle relief who can get out lefties. Mecir's screwball will do just that... and at $1.1 million, he's a nice bargain.
- 2/7/05: Is that you Denny? Devil Rays solicit Denny Neagle with a minor league deal, spring training invite. He could be a #5 pitcher for them, or mop-up man. But after getting booted from Colorado this off-season (much to the Rockies payroll relief), he's getting a second chance. Granted, it's not for the $10 million he would have gotten from Colorado but $316k is nothing to sneeze at. Along with Hideo Nomo, the Rays are making some shrewd choices for a change.
- 2/9/05: Tigers continue the frenetic pace this off-season, picking up Kyle Farnsworth and a player to be named for three minor leaguers Roberto Novoa, Scott Moore and Clarence Flowers. I'm surprised the Cubs didn't try to snag someone more ready, such as Nook Logan, with the outfield now bereft of talent and Flowers nowhere near the bigs. Farnsworth looked shaky at times last year, but will give you more than a strikeout per inning. A change of location is good for him; Chicago will be no place to be this year. He'll get to set up Troy Percival and should pick up 20+ holds this year, especially with Ugueth Urbina's mom still missing.
- 2/2/05: Indians trade their top pick in 2000 (26th overall), third baseman Corey Smith, to the Padres for their 2001 top-choice (#14 overall), Jake Gautreau. While Gautreau is three years older, he's also well ahead of Smith on the development chart. Smith was designated for assignment when Alex Cora signed last month; getting Cora's potential replacement for next year will work well for the Indians. With Adam Miller coming up in 2006, this is the beginning of an interesting franchise... that could contend this year.
- 2/4/05: Rangers sign a somewhat risky, but cheap, deal with Pedro Astacio for one year, $800,000. Astacio, who underwent surgery, signed an incentive-laden contract. With Kenny Rogers threatening to retire, the starting rotation goes Ryan Drese, Chan Ho Park, and Astacio and then a collection of Chris Young, R. A. Dickey, Joquin Benoit, and Juan Dominguez. This team will struggle to reach that somewhat surprising 89 win mark with this rotation.
- 2/14/05: Mets sign Todd Van Poppel to a minor league deal. Van Poppel has never lived up to expectations, so it's good to see the Mets not oversigning him or guaranteeing him a roster spot.
- 2/4/05: Cubs pick up pinch-hitter extraordinare Dave Hansen via minor league deal, spring training invite route. Last year, the Padres wasted prospect Jon Huber (who went 4-1 after that) to get him back from Seattle after trading him for Jeff Cirillo.
- 2/4/05: Brewers sign Jeff Cirillo to a minor league deal, spring training invite. Cirillo has been abysmal for a few years now; this signing confirms it. The Brewers were smart not to guarantee anything, and didn't waste Kevin Jarvis, Wiki Gonzalez, and Vince Faison (now in AAA) or a ton of money on him. Welcome back to Milwaukee, Jeff.
Worst off-season moves of February 2005:
- 2/2/05: Cubs sign Jeremy Burnitz to a one-year, $5 million deal with an option for 2006. If you add money still being paid to Sammy Sosa, they are swapping out declining outfielders in an even swap. While Cubs pitching is indeed pretty good, Burnitz's 3 year average OPS of .713 in Wrigley isn't exactly something to make you drool. He hardly deserved a raise from $1.25 million based on his Coors-inflated numbers.
Any Cub fan even potentially excited about an outfield of Burnitz, Corey Patterson, and David Kelton? At least it's clear to Cubs management where the holes are. While everyone is focusing on the loss of Sosa, losing Alou will make for more of a power and leadership vacuum. Look for Ray Lankford to get talked about in Chicago as the next signing, or even Aramis Ramirez to get traded.
- 2/2/05: Orioles officially acquire Sammy Sosa and $16.15 million for Jerry Hairston, Mike Fontenot, pitcher Dave "Scatman" Crouthers and get Sosa to void his 2006 and 2007 option. How is this a bad move for Baltimore?
While they pay less than $9 million in 2005 for the #7 all-time slugger, he's no longer the Sosa he's been, he's back to being the Sosa he used to be. Sosa's OPS dropped under 900 for the first time since 1997. His strikeout totals the last two years (one a game average) more than doubled his walks. He's 36 now, and has shown signs he's no longer striking as much fear into the hearts of pitchers. He's been subject to injuries involving his back, biceps, and hip. He's dogged by the rumors of steroids (and corked bats) and of not giving it his all when the chips are down.
With Sosa, Baltimore now sports two 550 HR hitters (Palmiero), a powerhitting shortstop (Tejeda, 34 homers), a good hitting catcher (Lopez .311-23-86), and a fantastic hitting 3B (Mora .340-27-104). Palmiero is 40 and apparently has some plumbing issues. Lopez is at the age where catchers start to decline. Sosa has been clearly on the decline. While Mora and Tejada are legitimate MVP candidates, they may have to wind up doing this all themselves. If Sosa DHs, Palmiero is forced to play first and BJ Surhoff will be in right field (or worse, Tim Raines, Jr.). This will keep David Newhan on the bench. Melvin Mora may have to go back to left field, benching up-and-comer Larry Bigbie. It's a nice problem to have, but still.
Bottom line, however, is that the starting rotation is very weak in a division featuring the World Series champs and the usual World Series also-rans. Even if the O's perform at top level, hitting-wise, they still might be third in runs in their own division! Without a legit ace on the squad, this is a .500 ballclub, regardless of who is hitting.
- 2/1/05: Phillies' prospect Cole Hamels undergoes surgery to repair a hand fracture on his pitching hand, earned in a altercation last week. How many times do you need to watch Bull Durham to know to never hit a drunk with your pitching hand. We can't afford to keep giving out this free advice...
- 2/21/05: Ivan Rodriguez loses the pudge, dropping 22 pounds this off-season while vehemently denying Jose Canseco's allegations of steroid usage. It's a hardly convincing defense, however, since the last big star to noticeably lose that much weight in a short frame was Jason Giambi (although he claimed to have lost a total of four pounds).
- 2/18/05: They may be out of Montreal, but the Nationals have a streak of bad moves going this month (see below). Wendell Kim, aka "Wavin' Wendell" aka "Windmill Wendell" aka "The Scapegoat", has been hired as manager of their Rookie franchise in the Gulf Coast League. While Kim has a ton of major league experience and it's fantastic thing to get him off the basepaths, his chronic idsinterest in remember which players have what capabilities is not what you want to put in front of kids fresh out of high school. Given that most of these kids have been playing on talent alone and not skill, having someone who repeatedly fouled up important games on fundementals is not the guy you want in charge.
- 2/16/05: Yankees add Rey Sanchez to the list of aging veterans. With Tino Martinez (37), Ruben Sierra (39), and John Flaherty (37) sharing the bench with the 37-year-old Sanchez, it'll be hard to tell which creaks more the bench or the players on it.
- 2/13/05: Nationals trade Jerry Owens for Alex Escobar in an exchange of outfielders with the White Sox. Escobar has had three stabs at the bigs, and looks to be facing bench time in competition with Terrmel Sledge. While Sledge may find himself suspended from time-to-time, Escobar makes little sense for the Nationals. There are more capable players in their minor league system, and they could afford to sit on Owens longer.
- 2/3/05: Nationals finally unveil the new uniforms. The throwback "W" cap made me hopeful, but the rather drab lettering for the body is a disappointment.
- 2/7/05: Arizona acquires more cash. However they also have to get Jose Cruz Jr in the process, giving up Casey Fossum. This is the new look D-Backs, and Cruz just doesn't fit.
|American League Arbitration Figures|
|Player||Pos||2004 Stats||Team||2004 Salary||Ask||Offer||Status|
|Jorge Julio||RP||22 Sv||Orioles||$385,000 ||$2,900,000 ||$2,350,000 ||signed 2/13|
|John Parrish||MR||6-3 3.46||Orioles||$320,000 ||$825,000 ||$575,000 ||signed 2/17|
|Jeremy Affeldt||P||3-4 13 Sv||Royals||$350,000 ||$1,200,000 ||$950,000 ||club|
|Kyle Lohse||SP||9-13 5.34||Twins||$395,000 ||$2,400,000 ||$2,150,000 ||player|
|Johan Santana*||SP||20-6 2.61||Twins||$1,600,000 ||$6,800,000 ||$5,000,000 ||signed 2/14|
|Carlos Silva||SP||14-8 4.21||Twins||$340,000 ||$2,250,000 ||$1,650,000 ||signed 2/8|
|Eric Byrnes||LF||.283-20-73||A's||$328,000 ||$2,500,000 ||$2,000,000 ||signed 2/4|
|Juan Cruz||MR||6-2 2.75||A's||$370,000 ||$860,000 ||$600,000 ||club|
|Casey Fossum||SP||4-15 6.65||D-Rays||$345,000 ||$1,350,000 ||$800,000 ||signed 2/6|
|Jesus Colome||MR||2-2 3.27 8H||D-Rays||$320,000 ||$825,000 ||$550,000 ||signed 2/1|
|Travis Harper||MR||6-2 3.89 9H||D-Rays||$332,500 ||$840,000 ||$650,000 ||signed 2/11|
|Trever Miller||MR||1-1 3.12 9H||D-Rays||$750,000 ||$1,375,000 ||$850,000 ||signed 2/7|
|Jorge Sosa||P||4-7 5.53||D-Rays||$327,500 ||$925,000 ||$550,000 ||signed 2/14|
|Shea Hillenbrand||1B||.310-15-80||Blue Jays||$2,600,000 ||$4,350,000 ||$3,450,000 ||signed 2/4|
National League Arbitration Figures
|Player||Pos||2004 Stats||Team||2004 Salary||Ask||Offer||Status|
|Aramis Ramirez||3B||.318-36-103||Cubs||$6,000,000 ||$10,250,000 ||$8,000,000 ||signed 2/4|
|Carlos Zambrano||SP||16-8 2.75||Cubs||$475,000 ||$4,000,000 ||$3,300,000 ||signed 2/4|
|Ramon Ortiz||SP||5-7 4.43||Reds||$3,266,667 ||$4,000,000 ||$3,450,000 ||signed 2/18|
|Shawn Chacon||RP||7.11 35 Sv||Rockies||$1,925,000 ||$2,925,000 ||$2,150,000 ||signed 2/4|
|Pete Munro||SP||4-7 5.15||Astros||$375,000 ||$1,100,000 ||$525,000 ||signed 2/7|
|Roy Oswalt||SP||20-10 3.49||Astros||$3,425,000 ||$7,800,000 ||$6,000,000 ||signed 2/10|
|Tim Redding||SP||5-7 5.72||Astros||$395,000 ||$1,400,000 ||$575,000 ||signed 2/7|
|Ben Sheets||SP||12-14 2.70||Brewers||$2,500,000 ||$6,500,000 ||$5,500,000 ||signed 2/13|
|Junior Spivey||2B||.272-7-28||Brewers||$2,367,500 ||$2,600,000 ||$2,000,000 ||signed 2/4|
|Jason Michaels||LF||.274-10-40||Phillies||$335,000 ||$925,000 ||$650,000 ||signed 2/10|
* won Cy Young award
File last modified May 15, 2011