Rating Baseball's off-season moves|
Best off-season moves of January:
- 1/11/2003: Marlins and Tigers complete a nice trade. Marlins get lefty Mark Redman, a great #4 complement to their rotation of Burnett, Beckett, and Penny, and making a compelling #5 battle between Pavano and Tejera set for spring training. They also get a Class A level pitcher, Jason Fuell. The Tigers get three promising young arms in Gary Knotts, Nate Robertson, and Rob Henkel. Knotts and Robertson could break the starting rotation in 2004, possibly even this year given the weakness in that department for the Tigers something they weren't likely to do for quite some time in Florida. Florida should avoid arbitration with Redman and sign him to a two or three year deal now. Along with Florida's other deals this winter, they are making a move to finish above .500 in a division where perhaps anyone but the Mets could win it.
- 1/22/2003: Marlins sign Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year, $10 million deal. There's a lot to hate about this deal (see below), but also a lot to like. If I-Rod stays reasonable healthy and can be in the lineup for 125-130 games and maintain his defensive skills and batting abilities, Florida may have improved themselves more this off-season than Philly. The batting lineup should be interesting: Pierre, Castillo, Lowell, Pudge, Lee, Encarnacion, Hollandsworth, and Alex Gonzalez. Speed on the top, and four guys who will give you 25-35 homers this year. Hollandsworth should hit around .280, and may find somebody on base a heck of a lot. The pitching staff solidified with the addition of Redman as a #4 (see above).
One major factor I-Rod brings that additions such as Hollandsworth and Redman don't he's a name. He's going to put fannies in the seats. Hopefully, he won't be putting his fanny on a seat like he has the past three seasons... With a healthy I-Rod, the Marlins make a strong run at winning the East, along with Philly and Atlanta.
- 1/6/2003: Robert Fick signs with the Atlanta Braves for one year for $1 million. While he has skills as a first baseman and catcher, the Braves should put him in left field, shifting Chipper back to third, and Castilla alternating with the Franco family. Fick would be better at first with another team, but left field could be a nice home for him for a year. Look for him to sign for $3 million/year somewhere else after this season after he hits .285 with 25 HR.
- 1/6/2003: Brad Fullmer re-ups with the Angels for another year and only $1 million. Can't argue with a World Championship ring as the nice bonus from 2002.
- 1/15/2003: The Yankees, Expos, and White Sox complete an awkward trade. The Yankees dump
El PuqueOrlando Hernandez on the Expos and receive set-up man Antonio Osuna and a minor leaguer. Good for the Yankees adding to their farm system and attempting to fill the huge hole left by Stanton and Mendoza's departure. Chris Hammond and Osuna together almost fill Stanton's shoes, but this deal only knocks about $1 million off the salary rolls.
The White Sox receive Bartolo Colon and infielder Jorge Nunez. Nunez will join D'Angelo Jiminez as the 2B/SS combo. Colon joins Buehrle at the top of a very strong rotation, followed by Rauch, Garland, and Wright. Montreal gets Jeff Leifer to play first base, possible #5 starter Rocky Biddle, Hernandez, cash, and a reduction in collect calls from Theo Epstein. Everyone gets something, but the White Sox make out the best in this deal. Liefer was never going to unseat Konerko; Nunez brings some speed. They've closed the gap on the Twins, but still need a catcher. If Crede and Rowand step up, this is a dangerous team. This is an A- for the White Sox, a B for the Yankees, and a B for the Expos.
- 1/16/2003: While I'm restraining myself on arbitration-induced deals, Torii Hunter has signed a four-year, $32 million deal with the Twins, after winning $2.4 million in arbitration last year. Hunter is the heart of the outfield, Mientkiewicz the soul of the infield. Keeping these guys around for the next 10 years is a good idea. But notice that the contract runs up until the contraction freeze in the CBA expires... The Twins should take this time to trade Jacque Jones for infield and pitching prospects while they can. The Twins are so deep at outfield with Hunter, Cuddyer, Ford, Kielty, and Restovich. Jones is the perfect trade bait and could be packaged with Rick Reed to teams like the Mets, Rangers, Pirates, Oakland, etc.
- 1/25/2003: Houston dumps disappointing Daryle Ward on the Dodgers and receive pitching prospect Ruddy Lugo. Ward, who was supposed to rip up the league this past year, foundered instead. He hit .276 with only 12 HR after hitting 20 in 2000 as a rookie. His 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio didn't please folk in the Houston organization, nor did his ever-decreasing trade value. Houston does a great job by picking up pitching that will help them going forward, and dumping a headache now. The Dodgers, who are for sale, pick up a player that could help them close in on the aging Diamondbacks in the West. However, the pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine might prove to be a bad location for swing-happy Ward.
- 1/27/2003: The Dodgers and Rockies complete a deal with the Dodgers once again getting the guy who is ready now and the other team getting the guy on the cusp of breaking out. Dodgers send outfielder Luke Allen to the Rockies for infielder Jason Romano. Romano will battle Thurston for the 2B slot this spring, while Allen will make the Rockies outfield for 2004 look very interesting Jack Cust, Preston Wilson, and Allen...
- 1/3/2003: Cubs sign Dave Veres to a one-year, $2 million contract. Four straight years of 70+ games out of the bullpen. A bit on the old side, but compliments the great bullpen being created in Chicago. I would, however, like to be the IcyHot distributor in Wrigley's soon-to-be retired home.
- 1/27/2003: The White Sox proved to be the busiest groundhog today, scooping up seven players with minor league deals, spring training invites. Gil Heredia, Esteban Loaiza, Brian Cooper, Brian Daubach, Jamie Burke, Steven Morales, and Clifford Brumbaugh are now vying to be South Siders. Heredia brings an old, but wise and well-rested arm, having been displaced in Oakland in 2001. Loaiza, while awful and overpriced as a starter ($6 million in 2002 for a 5.71 ERA), could provide some nice middle relief work here. Cooper has struggled everywhere he's gone, and no place more than last year's 14.01 ERA in Toronto.
As for the hitters, Daubach received a $2 million raise last year, and raised one statistic over 2001 strikouts. Having 108 was bad enough in 2001, but going up to 126 and dropping 2 homers back to 20 didn't please the Red Sox faithful. Only five of his homers last year were in wins that were 4 runs or closer. But he can hit them, and he's a left, which will make him a good bench resource. Burke is a promising catcher stuck behind the Molinas in Anaheim. Given the unknown nature of the White Sox catching situation, bringing in young talent does help.
The White Sox are making progress on the Twins with less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers report...
- 1/29/2003: The Pirates sign Jeff Suppan, formerly of the Royals, to a one-year deal with an optional second year. The contract secures the #4 slot in the rotation for as little as $1 million for one year, maximum of $5.3 million for two years (with incentives reached). Suppan, although he gives up the gopherball too often, will do better in the National League. As mentioned below in the Julian Taverez contract below, Littlefield is fixing up a nice little team that could sneak up the Central while everyone focuses on the Cubs, Astros, and Cardinals.
- 1/3/2003: Omar Daal signs a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Daal brings a sub-4.00 ERA, 100+ strikeout left-handed veteran to the Os. They still remain a terrible team, however. It might behoove them to bring a lot of AAA players up early this year.
- 1/14/2003: The Milwaukee Brewers sign a legitimate pitcher, Todd Ritchie, to a one year deal for pittance. While everyone is making a big deal out of the Angels only offering one-year deals because they are up for sale, notice that the Brew Crew is doing the same thing. Are the Brewers up for sale? Fuzzy, but yes, I'd say. Call Ritchie a #3 starter behind Sheets and Rusch, with five pitchers (Kinney, Diggins, Mlicki, Neugebauer and Franklin) competing for the two remaining spots.
- 1/27/2003: Apparently, George Steinbrenner has some money to throw around. Who knew? Juan Acevedo is the latest recipient of a minor league deal, one replete with an option for 2004. Acevedo made $850,000 in Detroit last year as the closer; if he makes the Yankees, he'll get $900,000 this year, and $3 million if his option is picked up. Not bad to go from unemployed to a nice big potential raise. He should make it, despite the heavy competition in New York for that final bullpen spot. The bullpen has Rivera, Karsay, Hammond, Hitchcock, Osuna, and Weaver with Leiber going to the 60 day disabled list. However, one injury or trade could open a very nice location for Acevedo.
- 1/3/2003: Texas signs John Thomson for one year, $1.3 million. Has Mr. Hicks learned to manage his money?
- 1/11/2003: Marlins resign Mike Redmond for another year. In 89 games, he hit .305 and was a much better use of money than Charles Johnson, now lounging in Colorado.
- 1/14/2003: Orioles bring Kerry Ligtenberg to Camden for at least one, if not two years, on the cheap. He stands a good shot of becoming the closer, in my estimation.
- 1/20/2003: Colorado signs strikeout king Jose Hernandez and brings Steve Reed back for another cruise through Coors. Hernandez could wind up just about anywhere in this infield, and should be able to chase .300 in a Rockies uniform. I see him getting .295 with 30 HRs without injury or benching. He'd work nicely in the 2-hole in front of Larry Walker, Todd Helton, and Preston Wilson, if he doesn't lead off. Steve Reed knows the park, and will be checking the ball humidor daily.
- 1/8/2003: Marlins bring in Todd Hollandsworth for one year at $1.5 million to provide some muscle and to replace Kevin Millar in left. I'm liking the Marlins line-up more and more, but I wish Millar was still around.
- 1/22/2003: The Yankees, feeling that their starting pitching isn't adequate, sign Jon Leiber to a two-year deal with an optional third year. Lieber isn't expected to pitch until late in the season (when the Yankees would actually need him), so he'll start the season on the 60 day disable list and earn $300k this year, plus his signing bonus. Lieber will earn about $3 million in 2004, when he will be needed due to the expected retirement of Roger Clemens, departure of Sterling Hitchcock and most likely David Wells. Pettite also becomes a free agent, but I anticipate he'll be back. The deal calls for an $8 million option year in 2005, which probably won't happen given both the salary cap and Lieber's age, but if 2004 is hot, George won't let go. The option makes Lieber, like everyone else on the mound in New York, untradeable.
- 1/14/2003: Red Sox bring Bill Mueller to Fenway for two years, $4.5 million, freeing the path for Shea Hillenbrand's over-anticipated departure. Mueller hits for about the same average as Hillenbrand, but won't hit anything more than a Bucky Dent homer from time-to-time. He'll also not leave the ball sitting in the infield dirt.
- 1/15/2003: The White Sox are having a great day. In addition to snagging Colon and Nunez, they sign Armando Rios, late of Pittsburgh. He'll make a nice bench bat, and a good replacement for Rowand if he founders. Rios absolutely stroked the ball towards the end of the season and has a good shot at winning a starting job.
- 1/6/2003: Cardinals add Joey Hamilton and Al Levine to their bullpen. While I don't view these two as great pitchers, they do add depth to fill the gaping hole left by Veres's departure.
- 1/20/2003: Cardinals bring Dustin Hermanson back for a mere $900,000 plus incentives. Last year, he made $7.5 million for pitching in 12 games (with only one start, which lasted 5 innings) for the Boston Red Sox. The Cardinals had traded Fernando Tatis and Brit Reames to get Hermanson and Steve Kline, and then traded him to Boston for Luis Garcia, Rick Asadoorian and Dustin Brisson. Asadoorian had 11 triples in A ball last year, but needs to improve his plate discipline (96k:44BB). Brisson has shown some promise with the bat, but was terrible in 2002. Like Hamilton and Levine, if Hermanson doesn't catch on as a #5, he could be a valuable vet in the pen.
- 1/15/2003: Cubs slip Mark Guthrie back into the bullpen, returning after two years away. While he's 37 the seemingly average age of post-season roster additions for the Cubs he adds to the very setup system being established in Chicago. Hopefully, Dusty Baker won't have to pitch Kerry Wood more than 6 or 7 innings until August.
- 1/2/2003: Cubs sign Beck to a minor league contract. Love his last few albums... oh wait, Rod Beck. Well, if he gets back to form, this is a great bullpen fattener...
- 1/7/2003: Reds offer minor-league contract and spring training invite to Kent Mercker. Pencil him in as your #4 starter (Haynes, Dempster, Reitsma, Mercker, Graves for the roto).
- 1/16/2003: Devil Rays sign Steve Parris to a minor-league deal, replete with a spring training invite. Steve, word of warning. If you can't crack this rotation, retire. If Parris can get near his pre-surgical form (i.e., the form where he won seven straight games in 2000, never mind the 17 losses that year), this could be another bargain pickup found in MLB's dumpster.
- 1/23/2003: Red Sox finally come to a minor league deal with C/1B/OF/DH Dave Nilsson and also pick up Hector Almonte. If Nilsson comes back to his 1999 form, when he visited Boston as an All-Star, he could make a big impact from the left-side of the plate. He took off from the majors in 2000 to play baseball in Japan so he could be on the Olympic squad for Australia, but was dinged up in the process. If he has a good season, look for him to sign on for another year early in November. He's a good, level-headed guy, whose priorities are better than most major leaguers. Almonte is yet another decent bullpen arm, but it may cost them recent waiver pickup Earl Snyder. If Rupe doesn't work out, Almonte will squeeze into the opening day roster.
- 1/23/2003: The Tigers sign Steve Avery to a minor-league deal, spring training invite. MLDSTI? There were two victims of the 1994 baseball strike The Montreal Expos and Steve Avery. The Expos were destined for the World Series that year, and the fans never came back after. Steve Avery was 8-3, and had won 18 games the previous year with a 2.94 ERA. After the strike, he couldn't crack 8 wins in a full season until he went 10-7 in Boston with a 5.02 ERA in 1998. The next year, he had shoulder surgery in August, and hasn't pitched major league ball since. Detroit is a place for heartbreaking comebacks. With the retirement of Ernie Harwell, Mark Fidrych's doomed comeback looms heavy in my mind. But if Steve Avery can even crack middle relief with the Tigers and keep that arm on his body, he could mentor the interesting pitching staff developing in Detroit. Regardless of his numbers, I'm rooting for Avery to make it back, much in the way I hoped for Fidrych as a kid sitting radioside.
- 1/6/2003: Devil Rays sign Chris Truby to a minor-league deal. He's bounced around a bit, doesn't hit much, and has had some fielding issues, but he's much better than bringing Tony Clark or BJ Surhoff in. Truby will wind up backing up 1B and 3B for the Rays, possibly starting whichever position Huff doesn't play.
- 1/8/2003: Royals sign Albie Lopez for $1.5 million. Not that Lopez is a great pitcher, but I'm just glad to see Kansas City realize they can pick up veterans in the off-season. Sadly, Lopez should wind up their #1 starter, since Byrd was a free agent and Suppan was non-tendered. While the Royals have some nice young arms looking to start, Lopez would be wasted in the bullpen. Lopez made $4 million in 2002, so he's a relative bargain.
- 1/9/2003 - 1/10/2003: Royals continue to pick up veteran half-talent cheaply, snagging Mike DiFelice to a minor league deal, and utility infielder Desi Relaford for two years at a paltry $900,000. Relaford stands a good shot at being the opening day shortstop, and would move to second base when Carlos Febles invariably gets injured. What's the Royals payroll sitting at now? $24 million total (and that's mostly split between Randa and Sweeney)? Dumping Hernandez, Byrd, Knoblauch and Suppan from the roster has freed up some cash. There's some cheap pitching to be had... Todd Ritchie, Ismael Valdes, Kerry Ligtenberg, Jon Lieber...
- 1/22/2003: White Sox pick up Rick White for the bullpen on a one-year flyer. While he's a much better pickup than Tom Gordon (see below), they still have a long way to go to replace the great setup team lost within the last few months.
- 1/22/2003: Braves pick up Roberto Hernandez for one-year, $600,000 with incentives. He's a good veteran who knows the hitters in the league. However, the hitters know him too. Hernandez doesn't quite replace Spooneybarger, Remlinger, Mateo, or Ligtenberg. He might be a replacement for Chris Hammond though, and that's a start.
- 1/28/2003: Pirates sign Julian Tavarez to a minor league deal, spring training invite. I love the top three pitchers for the Pirates (Kris Benson, Josh Fogg, Kip Wells), but the #4 and #5 are questionables. While Dave Littlefield is looking to get Mondesi for free essentially and another starting pitcher, signing D'Amico, Tavarez, Figueroa, and Rolando Arroyo to minor league deals and bringing back Meadows provides the Pirates with some experienced choices for those two slots to follow the great young arms. All four of those minor league invites could find themselves in the rotation or long relief quite easily, and not detract from this team.
- 1/24/2003: The Twins pick up third baseman Shane Andrews with a minor league deal. While he's struggled mightily since his back surgery in 2000 and has never hit for average, he does hit a homer every 20 at bats. He's a good back up for Corey Koskie, since Casey Blake moved over to Cleveland as a free agent. Andrews is expected to reside in Rochester (AAA) for the beginning of the season and work on finding that stroke that hit 25 dingers in Montreal in 1998.
- 1/17/2003: Red Sox claim Earl Snyder off of waivers from the Indians. He hasn't shown much plate discipline, but he's shown decent power in the minors. With a good hitting coach, he could make a very valuable (and cheap) pinch-hitter, alternate DH/1B down the line. However, they have had to designate him for assignment subsequently. The Rox are hoping they can have him nearby at Pawtucket this season.
- 1/23/2003: Royals sign Alec's younger brother, James Baldwin, to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Is it just me, or are there suddenly 200 former major leaguers getting a minor league deal with a spring training invite. I'm going to be down in Arizona around the time pitchers and catchers report, I'll find out then. Seattle asked too much of Baldwin, recovering from surgery last year. With another year under his belt, this could be another no-risk, great-reward signing.
- 1/28/2003: Devil Rays sign Dan Reichert for one year. He's not a great starting pitcher, but he crawls into the #4 spot in Tampa. This should be a good place for Reichert to hide for a year, and he'll gain a lot working with Pinella. Look for him to have a much-better-than-his-average year.
- 1/22/2003: The Dodgers, not to be outdone by the Devil Rays, add declining veteran Ron Coomer to spring training via a minor league deal. He'll most likely make the squad, backing up Fred McGriff at 1B and Adrian Beltre at 3B. The Dodger have three nice looking guys at the corners in the minors Rick Bell (.270-13 HR but 22 errors), Phil Hiatt (.304-23 HR), and Chin-Feng Chen (.284-26 HR, 26 doubles). If McGriff or Beltre get dinged after June, one of those three would probably come over from Las Vegas to start. Signing Coomer will give them more time to get ready; Chen is why the Dodgers could get rid of Karros and Coomer will be much cheaper.
Worst off-season moves of January:
- 1/29/2003: In Houston, a warrant is issued for Ken Caminiti for violating his probation resulting from a cocaine possession conviction last March. The former MVP also owes $120 in lab fees. Maybe Bruce Froemming can help him out by selling his autographs for him...
- 1/30/2003: Umpire Bruce Froemming decides to book his own airline ticket to Japan rather than have major league baseball do it as he instructed. In a recorded phone conversation, he calls baseball's umpiring administrator Cathy Davis a "stupid Jew bitch." Not only does he lose the opening day assignment in Japan, but he's suspended for 10 days without pay. Wonder if those tickets were non-refundable too! Froemming has called two no-hitters (Milt Pappas's imperfect no-hitter and Ryan's 5th), and is known as a great umpire with a quick thumb. Can't wait for Shawn Green to step into the box with Froemming back there....
- 1/8/2003: Livan Hernandez decided to go golfing and wanted to hit in the 60s. Unfortunately, he wasn't aiming for the greens, but an elderly man with whom he was having a "scuffle." Hard to believe he missed, considering he hits between .240 and .300.
- 1/2/2003: Cubs sign Ramon E. Martinez to completely change the Cubs infield attitude of youth and vitality to old, slow, and past their prime if they had one. Karros, Grudzielanek, Martinez, and Mueller/Coomer/Orie, inspires me less than Choi, Hill, Gonzalez, Bellhorn.
- 1/6/2003: Phillies hire Charlie Manuel as a
wet nurse to Jim Thome special assistant to general manager Ed Wade. Manuel's job is to keep Bowa away from Thome when he invariably slumps. Manuel managed him in the minors and let him play out his horrid slump in 2001. Thome responds very well personally to Manuel and pretty much made up his mind to leave Cleveland when Manuel was canned. However, he improved his batting average 25 points after Manuel was ousted. Hopefully, Bowa will rest Thome from time to time like Skinner did. (Manuel never did until he was too dinged to play, and probably cost Thome some power).
- 1/22/2003: Marlins sign Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year deal for $10 million. This is what Cliff Floyd and Preston Wilson made combined in 2002, and both have been exiled. While I-Rod will be an interesting fit (and a difference-making asset if he can give 125-130 games), I have several worries about this deal. First, it's a one year deal with a no trade clause, but the money will be paid in three annual installments. There's also a curious rider than prohibits Florida from offering him arbitration. Even though I-Rod lives in Miami during the off-season, it's clear he doesn't want to stick around. This means his coming in with a "me only" attitude, not a team attitude. This is absolutely cancerous in a catcher this is supposed to be the field general for the team. You don't want to go into battle with a guy who is counting his days of service remaining.
He thinks he's worth $18 million a season, and wanted a 3 year deal. He'd be right if not for a few dogged facts. In the last 3 years, he's started an average of 94 games a year. Catchers don't usually do well after the age of 30, and Pudge is 31. Ted Simmons did have a couple decent years at 32 and 33, but 31 was awful and the rest weren't peaches. Piazza has dropped 20 points a season since his 31 year-old season. While the Marlins might get a good year out of Pudge, who has something to prove, he's going to be incredibly unsignable next year.
- 1/2/2003: Seattle signs Greg Colbrunn to a two-year, $3.6 million deal. I like Colbrunn, and I think he's a good DH/1B candidate, but Seattle is the exact wrong place for him. They have Edgar Martinez (40) and John Olerud (34) for those positions. Colbrunn is 33, and only played in half of Arizona's games. Seattle gets a good bench bat, but they shouldn't have resigned Edgar. Boo on the Dodgers, Red Sox, and any other team that needs either a 1B or a DH for passing here.
- 1/15/2003: Seattle signs John Mabry. Like Colbrunn, Mabry is going to be a valuable bench bat. He plays 1B, LF, and RF and a scant bit of 3B. The depth chart is heavy at 1B, Ichiro is a better hitter and fielder in RF, and Randy Winn is too in LF. While Cirillo is no great shakes at 3B, Mabry is worse. His fielding percentage at 3B in 1999 was .873; 2000 was .842. Cirillo fields 100 points higher. I don't see Mabry being more than a pinch-hitter/injury replacement at best.
- 1/11/2003: Mets bring back Tsuyoshi Shinjo for another year at $600,000. Two problems with this: Shinjo hasn't been able to hit major league pitching, and he's had an equally difficult time fielding major league hitting. Shinjo and Relaford were traded for Shawn Estes December 17, 2001. Estes is a Cub, Relaford a Royal, and Shinjo is somehow employed. Favorite situation with that trade was Estes's remark "It looks like the Mets are making a pretty good pitch to get in the World Series."
- 1/30/2003: The Expos sign Damon Buford to a minor league deal. He's 32, and played poorly in AAA last year. He's shown an inability to hit major league pitching. He was traded for Manny Alexander, which should give you an indication how little he was desired in Boston.
- 1/8/2003: Marlins let Kevin Millar slip to Japan. You don't let cheap .300 hitters get away, even if you do get $1.2 million for it.
- 1/11/2003: Marlins compound selling Millar by buying Gerald Williams. He hit .000 last year in 33 games. Zip. Nada. Two walks and two stolen bases in 19 total plate appearances. He made $4 million last year (He'll make only $325,000 for 2003). And George Steinbrenner wonders why the luxury tax hits him alone?
- 1/6/2003: Reds move Aaron Boone to 2B so Brandon Larson can play third. While I do like Larson better than Boone, Tony Blanco will be sitting right behind Larson (and will be better) and Felipe Lopez should be given time at 2B. While the Reds do need to keep Boone's 26 HR/32 SB in the lineup, give him a first baseman's mitt and trade Sean Casey and Scott Sullivan to the Braves for Marcus Giles/Jason Marquis/Matt McClendon.
- 1/8/2003: Cleveland attempts to make the Cubs look younger again by bringing back Terry Mulholland and Dave Burba for another year.
- 1/29/2003: Giants add Andres Galarraga via a minor league deal. While Snow needs to go, the Big Cat will be 42 mid-season which is two more than the number of RBIs he had in 104 games/300 ABs in 2002. While his high strikeout ratio was partially excusable when he was hitting over .300 (he's the active career leader by the way), it's a joke when he's hitting .260. Had he retired the year after coming back from cancer (and having a 100 RBI season), he would have lingered on the Hall of Fame ballot for a few years. Now, he'll be lucky to make it past year one. He's only three strikeouts behind Jose Canseco for second most strikeouts all time.
- 1/24/2003: The Brewers sign Eddie Perez to a minor-league deal, spring training invite. This brings the total number of catchers to 25. Javier Valentin, acquired from the Twins in the off-season, will be the starting catcher in Milwaukee this year. Bernie Brewer will be listed second in the depth chart. George Bamberger will be third.
- 1/9/2003: Cleveland signs Shane Spencer to a one-year deal. This ruins my dream outfield of Coco Crisp, Milton Bradley and a trademark lawyer. It's a good deal for Spencer, but they're better hitters out there for whatever he's getting. Guaranteed he won't resign in Cleveland next year.
- 1/10/2003: Braves resign Rafael Furcal to a one-year, $2.2 million contract. It's a substantial raise from the $405,000 he made last year. Only Orlando Cabrera made more errors at shortstop in the majors last year. Furcal scored 95 runs last year, struck out 114 times and walked only 43 times. What happened to the kid who walked 73 his rookie year (while striking out 80)?
- 1/21/2003: Red Sox bring David Oritz to Fenway for $1.25 million, a nice $300k raise to compensate for the increased cost of living. He replaces Brian Daubach and Tony Clark in the underachieving, oft-injured, DH/1B role at a savings of about $5 million total for the same .265/20 HR effort. Ortiz has issues hitting when pressure is on; Fenway is not going to be a happy place for him. He'll fold like an Ikea chair when he hears his opening day boo.
- 1/28/2003: San Francisco Giants sign switch-hitting outfielder Jose Cruz, Jr. to a one-year deal with an option for 2004. While some would call this a good deal for the Giants because Cruz steps into Kent's batting spot and Reggie Sanders OF position, I think he'll be a huge bust (except for those in 5x5 Roto leagues). Cruz has no plate discipline and doesn't keep a book on pitchers. Over the last 3 years, he's batting .250 against pitchers the first, second, third, and even fourth time he sees them in a game. His OBP for the same period was .322 from either sides of the plate. Even worse, his OBP was .275 from the right side last year. While he did have two 30 HR years, most of his homers have been solo shots and he struck out far too often. He's absolutely atrocious with men on. Since he'll most likely bat ahead of Bonds, he's going to see a lot of first pitch strikes. Once he's down 0-1, he's usually an easy out. Bonds will miss Kent most of all.
People are also lauding his base stealing ability. He had 7 last year; down from 32 the year before and even lower than his 15 and 14 the years before. I don't see him trying to steal hitting ahead of Bonds. If they throw him in the 5 slot, he's not going to find his way to first at all. Would have been a better signing as a coach, not a spring training invite.
- 1/10/2003: Brewers go dumpster diving and come up with Dave Mlicki, Keith Osik, Mike Buddie, the latter two signed to minor league deals. Osik is a warm body at best, and I'm not sure if he can bat higher than his pulse getting to his weight would be a dream season. Buddie is the youngster at 32, the other two are 34.
- 1/12/2003: Reds sign Paul Wilson as a fourth starter to a two-year deal, with $500k in 2003 and $3.5 million in 2004. A few things concern me about Wilson. After a heartbreaking loss to snap his win streak in August, he crumbled and looked awful the rest of the season. He also was way overused during the summer, throwing 120+ pitches on far too many often since the Devil Rays bullpen, well, was as good as the rest of the team. He's had Tommy John surgery in 1999 after being burned out by the Mets his rookie year. If he does look good this year but the Reds are up a river by July, look for him to be gone by the trade deadline. That's the best I can say here.
- 1/16/2003: Dodgers add Wilson Alvarez via a minor league deal worth $750,000 if he makes the club. He's not going to make the club unless Kevin Brown is already on the DL on opening day. The rotation is set in stone, and the pen is deep: Mota, Gagne, Quantrill, Shuey, Carrara, and Dreifort. That's 11 pitchers right there, and Alvarez has to contend with Pedro Borbon, Yorkis Perez, Calvin Maduro and Victor Alvarez for a 12th roster spot if the Dodgers go 12 deep in pitching.
- 1/27/2003: I was going to put Mike Fetters on my "Should retire" list, but he signs a minor league deal with the Twins. He's 38 and never been anything to write about. A decade ago in Milwaukee, he showed some promise, but kept getting worse as the pressure was put on him as a closer. After being exiled from Milwaukee (!), he hasn't been anything but a warm bullpen body. While the Twins need warm bullpen bodies, this isn't the guy.
- 1/29/2003: Orioles add two veterans, Johnny "Popup" Valentin and Jeff Reboulet via minor league deals. While Valentin has been decent in winter ball, from reports, he's usually good in winter, great in March, and injured by May. Reboulet will be 39 this April, and has never had 300 at bats in a season. The more he plays, the lower his average.
- 1/20/2003: Tom Gordon returns to the Windy City after a short, but semi-productive stint in Houston. The 35-year old is still showing signs of that triceps injury. Gordon is hardly a replacement for Antonio Osuna, Bob Howry, or even Rocky Biddle, all of whom are gone from last season. While the White Sox will probably be happy with 40 innings out of Gordon, they need a better companion for Koch and Marte, otherwise, that great starting rotation is going to wind up on the DL and the White Sox will finish up the creek. This team is going to get beat up in the 7th and 8th.
- 1/29/2003: The Diamondbacks replace Mike Morgan with Mike Jackson. Jackson was great until his shoulder started to go and he started getting shuffled around from team to team. His collapse during ALCS should have sent him into retirement. Ron Villone should chew some innings as well, but gives up too many runs to be helpful. Both are minor league deals.
- 1/30/2003: The Diamondbacks sign Rocky Bottalico, who agreed to the ubiquitous minor league contract, spring training invite. He's 33, the same age as Ron Villone, but has more talent. He suffered a torn labrum in late June last year, and rejected salary arbitration from the Phillies. He had surgery in 1998 to remove bone chips in his elbow. While he came back to save 20 the next year, he can't get out lefties and having a second surgery different from the first makes me question what will fall off next. With The Big Unit and Schilling aging, the Diamondbacks could really fall off this year.
- 1/16/2003: The Brent Abernathy Era is over! The Devil Rays sign Marlon Anderson to play second sack. Perhaps he'll get back to his minor league theft patterns and produce some runs, but really, this is a stinky team. This is a six-of-one, half dozen of the other. But with the Devil Rays, it's more like 25.
- 1/21/2003: Devils Rays add Lee Stevens, late of the Indians and Expos, and Bob Wells, late of the Twins, to the list of vets invited to spring training on a minor league contract. Another pair of players in their mid-30s who were vastly overpaid for underproduction recently. And yet Keith Lockhart is still unemployed.
- 1/20/2003: Devil Rays add Jim Parque and Ryan Thompson via minor league deals. While I do like Parque, the White Sox completely blew out his arm. He'll be using the D-Rays as a rest stop on the way to his next assignment. If he's able to make the team and start 10 games, he'll be elsewhere next year. Thompson couldn't catch on with the Brewers at the age of 34, and I view the Devil Rays as a step higher. While he did hit 8 HR in 62 games, his strikeout ratio (38:7) was just as bad as when he was the up-and-comer with the Mets (81:19). While Parque should make the squad, Thompson shouldn't.
- 1/22/2003: The Devil Rays continue their assault on the over-30 softball leagues by signing Jorge Fabregas to a minor league contract. If he makes the squad, he'll be in charge of bringing the beer down from Milwaukee. When you are picking up ex-Brewers, you can't win. Notice how noone is talking about how Lou Pinella is going to turn this team into a winner?
- 1/22/2003: I like having Carlos Baerga on a team. I think he was a great benefit to the Red Sox morale in 2002. But he should be getting hired as a bench coach, not a minor league contract, spring training invite like he received from Arizona.
Top unsigned players worth picking up for the right price:
Robert Fick (Atl), Brad Fullmer (Ana), Reggie Sanders, Omar Daal (Bal), Todd Ritchie (Mil), John Thomson (Tex), Eric Owens (Ana), Esteban Yan (Tex), Jon Lieber (NYY), Bill Mueller (Bos)
Unsafe at any speed:
Ivan Rodriguez (Fla), Tony Clark, Jose Offerman, Chuck Knoblauch, Dave Hollins, Tom Lampkin, Ray Lankford, Shawon Dunston, BJ Surhoff, Keith Lockhart.
Note: Nine out my original ten top unsigned players were under contract by the time my first unsafe at any speed player was taken. But the I-Rod deal might turn out to be a good one (see above).
Should retire: Mike Morgan, Rickey Henderson,
Andres Galarraga (SF), Dave Martinez (retired 1/3), Carlos Baerga (Ari), Doug Brocail, Jeff Reboulet (Bal), Ron Coomer (LA), Mike Jackson (Ari), John Valentin (Bal)
See also November moves.
See also December moves.