the dump's sportslog - baseball analysis

Brian Cashman's winter-to-date
The notable moves made by the New York Yankees under Brian Cashman since the end of the 2003 season. Please send any comments/omissions/questions/feedback here.

11/04/03 -
Declined option on David Wells ($6 million, $1 million buyout).

    The intention was to bring Wells back at less money - he's not worth $6 million at this point - but it didn't work out, and he went home to San Diego. A lot's been made this offseason of how the Yankees go into 2004 with a very different rotation than 2003 because they have a lot of guys who left via free agency. While that's true, I have a tough time faulting any of them - including Clemens - since all any of them did was go home. I don't include free agents bolting in these analyses, so I'll say here that I'm very appreciative of all the fine work Pettitte, Clemens and Wells did for the Yankees while they were in pinstripes, and I wish them the best of luck in Houston and San Diego respectively.

12/01/03 -
Signed Aaron Boone to a one year, $5.75 million contract. (avoided arbitration)

    With a clause prohibiting him from playing basketball, or something to that effect.

12/02/03 -
Signed Enrique Wilson to a one year, $700,000 contract.

    I don't mind having Wilson around simply because of his crazy numbers against Pedro Martinez - it's nice seeing a player of Wilson's stature smack him around a little - but realistically, there's not a whole lot of reason to keep him around. At this point, Boone, Jeter, Soriano and Giambi/Johnson were going to be manning the infield again and getting the vast majority of time. Why spend $700,000 on a guy like Wilson who can't really hit or field? I know the money is effectively no object, but come's not like the Yankee system is completely devoid of anyone who might at least be interesting to look at in a backup infielder role. Brian Myrow, anyone?

12/03/03 -
Signed Felix Heredia to a two year, $3.8 million contract with a club option for 2006.

    The Yankee bullpen is going to be much better in 2004, in part due to having Heredia around for the full season (they'd made other significant acquisitions too, of course). A late-season waiver wire last year, Heredia pitched very well after joining the Yankees, and will presumably have a significant role in the bullpen again in 2004.

12/04/03 -
Acquired Javier Vazquez from the Montreal Expos. (for Randy Choate, Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera)
Traded Randy Choate to the Montreal Expos. (with Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera for Javier Vazquez)
Traded Nick Johnson to the Montreal Expos. (with Randy Choate and Juan Rivera for Javier Vazquez)
Traded Juan Rivera to the Montreal Expos. (with Randy Choate and Nick Johnson for Javier Vazquez)

    As I said to anyone who would listen at the time, I hate seeing Nick Johnson go. He was one of the team's only above average defensive infielders (with Aaron Boone) and was quickly turning into a monster with the bat. The guy draws walks, hits for average and power...there's not much not to like. He's got the spectre of hand injuries over him all the time, which is a negative, but I have a tough time believing he's not going to be a flat-out stud for a long time in Montreal. At the same time, if I were going to trade him, I'd want it to be for someone just like Vazquez - a young (he'll be 27 this year) pitcher without an injury history to speak of who's had consistently excellent results and strikes a lot of guys out. Replacing Pettitte or Clemens or Wells with Vazquez is a significant upgrade. I expect Rivera and Choate to play some role and contribute over time in Montreal, but I don't think we'll miss them too much in New York.

12/07/03 -
Signed Ruben Sierra to a one year, $1 million contract.

    Strictly a pinch hitter/occasional DH at this point, I don't know that he's worth anything approaching a million dollars for his age 38 season. There's no getting around the fact that he can still absolutely crush a pitch now and then, but there are an awful lot of guys who can do the same for a lot less money and can also contribute in some other area. I'd expect Torre to use him pretty much just as he did in 2003.

12/11/03 -
Acquired Kevin Brown from the Los Angeles Dodgers. (for Yhency Brazoban, Jeff Weaver, Brandon Weeden and $2.6 million)
Traded Yhency Brazoban to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (with Jeff Weaver, Brandon Weeden and $2.6 million for Kevin Brown)
Traded Jeff Weaver to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (with Yhency Brazoban, Brandon Weeden and $2.6 million for Kevin Brown)
Traded Brandon Weeden to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (with Yhency Brazoban, Jeff Weaver and $2.6 million for Kevin Brown)

    It seems like many Yankee fans have some kind of vendetta against Jeff Weaver and wanted him gone at all costs - I'm certainly not in that camp. He didn't get the job done in pinstripes, that's pretty clear - but he goes into the 2004 season as a healthy 27-year old with a track record of major league success. Things didn't work out in New York, and it's a shame. I would've liked to see him in the rotation with Vazquez and take a wait-and-see approach...can you imagine two guys significantly under 30 in the Yankee rotation? In any case, he pitched himself out the team's plans, and it's hard to argue too hard against sending him on his merry way. Kevin Brown's got some things working against him - he's a groundball pitcher and the infield defense stinks, he's old and has had injury problems and he makes a ton of money. He also strikes a ton of guys out (precisely what the Yanks and their poor defense need) and has been and continues to be a borderline Hall-of-Fame pitcher when healthy. I'm more than a little worried about counting on him as much as the Yankees are though.

12/15/03 -
Signed John Flaherty to a one year, $775,000 contract.

    Again, a little excessive. Flaherty's okay in a very limited role, which is all he serves with the Yankees. I'm reluctant to speak ill of him, because he is a New York boy (born in the city) and it's such a rare treat to have one playing in our beautiful town. I have to believe that someone like Michel Hernandez could've filled this role ably, but having Flaherty around won't kill them. Unless Posada gets hurt, in which case it would be terrible.

12/17/03 -
Signed Gary Sheffield to a three year, $39 million contract.

    Having been talked about and nearly completed for awhile, the Sheffield contract finally got done. As I've read/heard in many places, Sheffield has such incredible bat speed that his age isn't likely to affect him as much as it might some other older players. I can buy that, and looking at his 2003 season in Atlanta (.330/.419/.604) I'd happily take a slightly reduced version of that over the next three years if I had to. The Yanks were sub-par in right last year and really not that great through the end of Paul O'Neill's career - Sheffield will be the best Yankee rightfielder I've ever seen. I loved Jesse Barfield too, but I'm just being real. He'll be a tremendous asset to the Yankee lineup, assuming he can play through the hand trouble he's currently experiencing.

12/18/03 -
Acquired Edwardo Sierra from the Oakland Athletics. (with J.T. Stotts for Chris Hammond)
Acquired J.T. Stotts from the Oakland Athletics. (with Edwardo Sierra for Chris Hammond)
Traded Chris Hammond to the Oakland Athletics. (for Edwardo Sierra and J.T. Stotts)

    Hammond was going to be rendered useless on this team, and may yet be on the A's as well (they've got a lot of lefties over there). While he pitched well for the team during the season, the Yanks added Heredia and Gabe White late last season and had deals for Paul Quantrill and Tom Gordon in the works already by this point, so he was going to be gone one way or another. I don't know that we should expect much from either Sierra or Stotts, but I'll point out that Stotts was a third round draft pick of the A's in 2001 out of Cal State Northridge and wasn't a total bust in his initial exposure to AA last season. Sierra was converted to relief last season and pitched adequately in the Midwest league at age 21. Both guys are unlikely to ever make an impact on the Yankees, the upside realistically is for them to play well enough to turn into further trade bait.

12/19/03 -
Signed Miguel Cairo to a one year, $900,000 contract.

    Wilson, Sierra and now this - about a million bucks a man filling out a pretty weak bench. Cairo's at least versatile, as he can play pretty much any position on the field and hit a little bit. I'm not thrilled about bringing him in, but he sure makes Wilson look like even more of a waste now that he's sitting alongside a similar but better player. Aside from the Pedro crushing.

12/20/03 -
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to David Dellucci.
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Karim Garcia.

    There are those who like David Dellucci as a player, but I'm not among them. I know he's been a bit disappointing given some of the work he did early in his career, but he did virtually nothing for the Yanks in 2003 and had no business being brought back. He'll be in Texas. Garcia, on the other hand, can actually hit and has demonstrated that ability both in New York and Cleveland. I wouldn't want him as my starting corner outfielder (though that's been taken care of), but as a bat off the bench, I probably like him better than Ruben Sierra. He'll be in Queens, where the Mets have really improved their outfield.

12/22/03 -
Signed Paul Quantrill to a two year, $6.8 million contract with a club option for 2006 ($3.6 million, $400K buyout).

    A little excessive. The Yanks have other options (Scott Proctor is one) internally and don't need to invest this kind of guaranteed money in a pitcher of Quantrill's caliber. I don't expect him to bomb in the Bronx, but my expectations aren't all that high either.

12/23/03 -
Designated Michel Hernandez for assignment.
Signed Tom Gordon to a two year, $7.25 million contract.
Signed Kenny Lofton to a two year, $6.2 million contract.

    The Red Sox claimed Hernandez, who could be a credible backup catcher given the opportunity. Between talking Colter Bean in the Rule V Draft and Hernandez here, is it possible that Boston's trying to stick it to the Yankees, picking up a guy the Yanks have discarded and watching him go on to major league success? In any case, he's not going to displace Varitek in 2004 and is behind Kelly Shoppach on the organization depth chart in Boston. Gordon's exactly the kind of pitcher the Yanks need in the bullpen - a guy who collects a lot of strikeouts. His health problems are a few years behind him now, and it's going to be fun watching Flash set up the Hammer of God. The Lofton signing is probably the most bothersome move for me as a Yankee fan - there's just no discernable reason for it. He's not a significant upgrade over Bernie in center, and he's not a good DH. I know he would've been more money and required a longer commitment, but the Yanks should've been interested in Mike Cameron, who would've been a great aid to both the offense and defense. If they get Carlos Beltran after the season, Lofton's all the more extraneous...but all would be forgiven.

01/06/04 -
Signed Javier Vazquez to a four year, $45 millon contract.

    If Vazquez isn't worth it, the Yankees have a right to be disappointed. He's been very good and durable in each of the last four years, and heading into his age 27-30 seasons, there's no reason why he shouldn't be able to sustain that success. Injuries are always a real risk when signing a long-term deal (especially for a pitcher), but Vazquez is a guy I feel pretty confident in.

01/09/04 -
Outrighted Erick Almonte to AAA Columbus.

    Realistically, he's not going to have much of a role on this team. He failed in an extended trial in 2003, and isn't likely to see another such opportunity come around in pinstripes.

01/12/04 -
Designated Fernando Seguignol for assignment.
Signed Tony Clark to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    As you probably know, Seguignol absolutely destroyed AAA last year and didn't earn as much as a look from the Yankees at any point. It's reasonable to think that he could be a pretty decent hitter in the major leagues right now, but he's not going to get that opportunity with the Yankees. At the same time, they feel the need to go out and sign a backup first baseman (hey...Seguignol has been a better hitter for at least the last two years, and he's in house!) Whatever. Tony Clark's got major league success behind him, is really tall, and can contribute. It just seems silly that teams frequently won't give minor league veterans because they have limited major league experience - it's a self-perpetuating cycle. Anyhow, Clark's not likely to make the team now that Travis Lee (see 2/26/04) has been signed to a guaranteed contract.

01/20/04 -
Signed Alfonso Soriano to a one year, $5.4 million contract. (avoided arbitration)

    A very reasonable price for a hitter of Soriano's caliber. As much as he's frustrating to watch, he's been enormously productive at second base. Of course, he wouldn't be around for long.

02/04/04 -
Acquired Mike Lamb from the Texas Rangers. (for Jose Garcia)
Traded Jose Garcia to the Texas Rangers. (for Mike Lamb)

    It'd be nice to envision Mike Lamb winning a role on the Yankees. With Boone going down, he would've been a decent fill-in at third base, but with the acquisition of Alex Rodriguez (coming soon), he's rendered pretty much useless. He's really a pretty decent hitter and can play both the infield and outfield corners - I think he'd find a place on my bench if I were running the Yankees. Hard to imagine him doing so now though.

02/05/04 -
Released Drew Henson.
Signed Erick Almonte to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Darren Bragg to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Homer Bush to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Jeff Deardorff to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Felix Escalona to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Sal Fasano to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Omar Fuentes to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Joe Girardi to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Tyler Houston to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Jim Mann to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Dioner Navarro to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Donovan Osborne to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed John Rodriguez to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed David Shepard to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Jon Mark Sprowl to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Steve Torrealba to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    The Drew Henson experiment officially ends; best of luck to him in the NFL. The Yankees don't often have guys make the roster after starting off as NRIs, and there's no exception in this group. Navarro and Sprowl are catching prospects (with Navarro the younger and better of the two), and there's not much else. Osborne will probably hang around AAA Columbus in case a Yankee starter goes down, and Girardi will move to the YES network. Tyler Houston might've been an option, but he gave up after the A-Rod acquisition.

02/16/04 -
Acquired Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers. (with cash for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later)
Traded Alfonso Soriano to the Texas Rangers. (with a player to be named later for Alex Rodriguez and cash)
Traded a player to be named later to the Texas Rangers. (with Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez and cash)

    I don't know what can be said that hasn't already been said. This is a wonderful deal for the Yankees. If I were starting a team right now (or any time for awhile now), my first selection would be Rodriguez...he can play short extremely well, he's been durable, he's still young and he can hit the crap out of the ball. And the Red Sox were close to acquiring him, which makes the trade even sweeter. He'll move to third for the beginning of the 2004 season - hopefully the Yanks think better of that before too long. The trade of trades.

02/17/04 -
Signed Gabe White to a one year, $2.15 million contract with a mutual option for 2005. (avoided arbitration)

    White's been a very good reliever in the past and should be a lefty killer in the Yankee pen this year. If he can do what he's done in the past effectively, he's well worth $2.15 million to the Yankees.

02/24/04 -
Released Tyler Houston.

    As I said, Houston gave up on making the team following the A-Rod trade. Good riddance.

02/26/04 -
Released Aaron Boone.
Signed Travis Lee to a one year, $2.25 million contract with a club option for 2005 ($3 million, $250K buyout).

    Boone finally gets released - it's thought that the team may try to resign him to an incentive-laden deal for 2005, which would be fine with me. His injury ultimately paved the way for the A-Rod trade, so I guess it ends up being a positive thing. Not many Yankee fans were relishing the thought of seeing Boone out there for a full season, given what he did in pinstripes last year (of course, he'll always have a place in our hearts). The Travis Lee signing is a bit odd, just because of the money. I guess he probably had other options and could've gone and played more elsewhere, so the team had to come big to get him...I just don't see him getting all that many at bats with the team they've currently got. A great defensive first baseman, he'll be Giambi's caddy there - you just can't get him, Giambi, Bernie, Lofton and Matsui all into the lineup at once.

The 2004 Yankees are a very different looking team than the one that lost the 2003 World Series to the Marlins. For the most part, that's a good thing. There's no question that the team has lost starting pitching - but I have more questions about the back end of the rotation (Contreras and Lieber) than the top two replacements (Vazquez and Brown). In truth, the offense should be good enough to make up for a lot of pitching deficiences. Adding the likes of Sheffield and Rodriguez should make this one of the best offensive teams around, certainly the best Yankee team we've seen in recent years. Both the Yanks and Red Sox (and Blue Jays) have improved significantly since the end of the season - it's going to be fun, again.


Larry Beinfest's winter-to-date
The notable moves made by the Florida Marlins under Larry Beinfest since the end of the 2003 season. Please send any comments/omissions/questions/feedback here.

11/10/03 -
Outrighted Kevin Olsen to AAA Albuquerque.
Signed Ryan Christenson to a minor league contract.

    There was a time when there were quite a few guys with names like "Christenson" floating around, but none have panned out so far. Ryan Christenson will be 30 this year and has not approached major league success of any kind since 2000, when he bordered on adequate in Oakland. So while he's not likely to get much of an opportunity, it's not as if the Marlins have a ton of outfield depth (after Juan Pierre, Jeff Conine and Miguel Cabrera, there's not much there). Probably not much here.

11/14/03 -
Signed Felipe Crespo to a minor league contract.
Signed Bryce Florie to a minor league contract.

11/24/03 -
Invited Ryan Christenson to spring training.
Invited Mike Fyhrie to spring training.
Invited Delvin James to spring training.
Invited David Manning to spring training.
Invited Aaron Small to spring training.
Signed Cedrick Bowers to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Marty McLeary to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Scott Sanders to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Matt Treanor to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Jason Wood to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    I'll be honest - I don't know a whole lot about most of these guys. Nice to see that Scott Sanders is still making a go of it - he pitched at AAA Albuquerque last year after last appearing in the major leagues with the Cubs in 1999. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that none of these guys make the team.

11/25/03 -
Acquired Hee Seop Choi from the Chicago Cubs. (with Mike Nannini for Derrek Lee)
Acquired Mike Nannini from the Chicago Cubs. (with Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee)
Traded Derrek Lee to the Chicago Cubs. (for Hee Seop Choi and Mike Nannini)

    Lee's legitimately one of the best all-around first basemen in the game, but he was about to get expensive and is now gone. If you're going to trade a player of Lee's caliber, you'd do well to bring in a good young player like Choi, a guy with lots of promise who will be cheap for awhile. I fully expect both Lee and Choi to be successful in their new homes, with Choi and Wil Cordero (signed later in the offseason) forming a very effective platoon in Florida. Nannini's a former 1998 first rounder (selected by the Astros) who had a nice season last year at AA West Tennessee. He struck over a man per inning (158 Ks in 154 innings) and posted a 3.52 ERA at age 23, so he's not quite just a throw-in here.

12/02/03 -
Signed Mike Lowell to a four year, $32 million contract.

    As you undoubtedly know, this is more than just a 4 year, $32 million contract - it's got an unprecedented (to my knowledge) clause that makes every year after the first contigent on the building of a new ballpark. It looks unlikely that a new stadium will be built in South Florida, so Lowell may well be a free agent again following the 2004 season - which wouldn't be the worst thing for the Marlins. As good as it looks like Miguel Cabrera is going to be, he'd have more value at third than he does in an outfield corner, and Lowell's getting to the point where he's likely to start declining soon. It's certainly a lot easier to find a good corner outfielder than a third baseman. Lowell should be worth the money this year.

12/04/03 -
Signed Mike Mordecai to a one year, $500,000 contract.

    He can't really hit and is limited to playing a couple infield spots. He's now been a part of two World Series champs (Atlanta in 1995 and Florida last year), but has been legitimately crappy during his tenure with the Marlins (the last two years). You'd be better off filling this utility man spot with someone either younger and cheaper or someone competent...I don't see a whole lot of justification for spending half a million dollars and a roster spot on the likes of Mordecai.

12/05/03 -
Signed Lenny Harris to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

12/06/03 -
Signed Gerald Williams to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    Good to have old Lenny and Ice back in camp. It goes without saying, but if either are on the roster at any point, it's a waste.

12/07/03 -
Signed Luis Castillo to a three year, $16 million contract with a vesting option for 2007 ($6 million).
Signed Chad Fox to a one year, $1.2 million contract.

    Fox has been either very effective or pretty awful for most of his career, and the Marlins got the good Fox when they picked him up in midseason. It's a bit of a gamble to bank on him being able to be as good as he was in Florida in 2003 again, but for this price it's probably worth it. As he's shown, he has the ability to be a tremendous asset out of the bullpen. The Castillo deal is a little bit problematic, perhaps driven as much by public relations as anything else. While he's still a very good player, you're starting to see his speed go as he ages, and so much of his game is predicated on that. I can understand ownership wanting to look like it wants to keep the championship core together, but retaining Castillo and Lowell might not have been the best way to go. That being said, this is only three years guaranteed, and while Castillo might look overpaid by 2006, it's a short enough deal that they're unlikely to get too badly burned.

12/13/03 -
Acquired Travis Ezi from the Los Angeles Dodgers. (for Juan Encarnacion)
Traded Juan Encarnacion to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (for Travis Ezi)

    I understand that the alternative for the Marlins was to non-tender him because he was about to get paid, but the outfield is going to be weaker without him around next year. Can you expect Juan Pierre and Jeff Conine to match their 2003 seasons in 2004? I don't know that you can. Either way, the team lacks a good fourth outfielder, and while he hasn't lived up to his early promise, Encarnacion was okay in 2003 (.270/.313/.446 in 601 at bats). He's not a good starting corner outfielder - but he's not worthless. Since they were going to get rid of him, kudos to Beinfest for getting something back.

12/16/03 -
Acquired Bill Murphy from the Oakland Athletics. (with Mike Neu for Mark Redman)
Acquired Mike Neu from the Oakland Athletics. (with Bill Murphy for Mark Redman)
Traded Mark Redman to the Oakland Athletics. (for Bill Murphy and Mike Neu)

    Neu will be an asset out of the bullpen for years to come and Murphy is a young pitcher out of Cal State Northridge who did a decent young in the Texas League last year. However, Redman's a damn good pitcher and held the Marlin rotation together for parts of last season with Dontrelle Willis after A.J. Burnett went down. Again, he was about to make a lot of money and probably got overpaid in Oakland, but the drop from Redman to Darren Oliver (who will start the season as the #5 starter) is not insignificant.

12/20/03 -
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Armando Almanza.
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Toby Borland.
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Braden Looper.

    Almanza was pretty bad last year (6.08 ERA in 50.1 innings), and the Marlins really have better options. Looper racked up a bunch of saves last season and was likely to be awarded more more in arbitration than he's really worth, so non-tendering him makes sense too. Borland pitched well (in just 9.2 innings) and was later brought back (12/22/03) on a minor league contract. He's in camp with the team.

12/21/03 -
Signed Armando Benitez to a one year, $3.5 million contract.
Signed A.J. Burnett to a one year, $2.5 million contract.
Signed Alex Gonzalez to a two year, $6.2 million contract.

    Benitez will be the new closer in Florida, replacing the non-tendered Braden Looper and the still unsigned Ugueth Urbina. I've seen an awful lot of him here in New York, but I think we all know what we're getting by now. $3.5 million seems a little steep, but he'll solidify the back end of the bullpen. Burnett, as you know, is hurt, but he's supposedly on schedule to return before midseason. Alex Gonzalez will be at short again, which would concern me - he's had a couple good months his entire major league tenure, which is now over 600 games old. Obviously the team won a championship with him, but short is a position I'd want to look into upgrading.

12/22/03 -
Signed Toby Borland to a minor league contract.

01/07/04 -
Signed Damion Easley to a minor league contract.

    I guess a great spring could get him a shot a backup role in the infield, but he's done nothing in the last...well...three years, to be charitable, to earn such an opportunity. He had a nice three year run in Detroit in 1997-1999, but there's plenty of evidence to show that he's finished now. He's limited to second base defensively and can't hit anymore, so he's really got no place on this or any team.

01/20/04 -
Signed Carl Pavano to a one year, $3.8 million contract. (avoided arbitration)
Signed Brad Penny to a one year, $3.725 million contract. (avoided arbitration)

    Two important rotation cogs locked up for another year. After all the injury problems Pavano had after being acquired by the Expos in the Pedro Martinez deal, it was great to see him pitching effectively last year. He gave the Marlins 201 innings of solid work last year, won a World Series, pitched great in the playoffs, and according to Dan, is now dating Alyssa Milano. Hats off to you, Carl.

01/22/04 -
Invited Dennis Anderson to spring training.
Invited Trevor Hutchinson to spring training.
Invited Ryan Jorgenson to spring training.
Invited Mike Nannini to spring training.
Invited Eric Reed to spring training.
Invited Derek Wathan to spring training.
Signed Larry Sutton to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

01/29/04 -
Signed Darren Oliver to a one year, $750,000 contract.

    One of the few transactions this offseason I actually covered on this site, you can check out my lengthier comments here. I would've expected little more than an NRI for Oliver, but he did pitch effectively last year in Colorado and supposedly will only be in the back of the rotation until A.J. Burnett returns (which the team hopes will be some time in May or June), at which point he'll move to the bullpen. Low risk, low reward.

02/03/04 -
Signed Wil Cordero to a one year, $600,000 contract.

    There are many things Wil Cordero can't do, but the guy crushes left-handed pitching. Assuming he'll be used at first base and in the outfield pretty much exclusively against lefties, he'll be an asset. For this price, it's hard to argue.

02/05/04 -
Signed Nelson Cruz to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Armando Rios to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

The Marlins had some hard decisions to make coming off their second championship season - many reports came out following the World Series that the team's payroll would have to increase substantially in order to keep the team intact. Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell were free agents, and the team had to deal with escalating salaries of the likes of Juan Encarnacion, Derrek Lee and Mark Redman. To their credit, they didn't attempt to stand pat like the Angels did last winter, and have made moves looking towards the future, acquiring Hee Seop Choi and cutting the cord with guys who would've been clearly overpaid like Encarnacion. It'll be interesting to see how Beinfest and company go about tweaking this team through the season, as they go into the 2004 season a clear underdog in their own division (to the Phillies, with the Braves right there).


Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan's winter-to-date
The notable moves made by the Baltimore Orioles under Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan since the end of the 2003 season. Please send any comments/omissions/questions/feedback here.

10/03/03 -
Outrighted Robert Machado to AAA Ottawa.
Outrighted Carlos Mendez to AAA Ottawa. (Mendez refused and became a free agent.)
Outrighted Pedro Swann to AAA Ottawa.

10/14/03 -
Outrighted Felix Escalona to AAA Ottawa.
Outrighted Jose Leon to AAA Ottawa.
Outrighted Mike Paradis to AAA Ottawa.
Outrighted Willis Roberts to AAA Ottawa.

10/17/03 -
Signed Tim Corcoran to a minor league contract.
Signed Darwin Cubillan to a minor league contract.
Signed Cory Harris to a minor league contract.
Signed Chris Lemonis to a minor league contract.
Signed Luis Lopez to a minor league contract.
Signed Carlos Mendez to a minor league contract.
Signed Sean Spencer to a minor league contract.
Signed Pedro Swann to a minor league contract.

10/29/03 -
Declined option on Brook Fordyce ($4 million, $500K buyout).
Declined option on Pat Hentgen ($4 million, $300K buyout).

    Hentgen had a nice second half last year, but I doubt the Orioles considered picking up his $4 million option too seriously. Given the young pitching coming up through the system, this probably makes sense, even if the Opening Day rotation isn't going to be anything to write home about. He's gone to Toronto where, if healthy, he should be a fine #4 starter. Not picking up Fordyce's option is an absolute no-brainer.

11/07/03 -
Named Lee Mazzilli manager.

    Why Lee Mazzilli? He's coming from the Yankees and the Yankees have done a pretty good job winning lately. And I assume he interviewed well. But he's got no relevant experience for us to look at, so it's hard to have any good guess as to what kind of manager he'll be.

11/13/03 -
Declined option on Deivi Cruz ($1.5 million).
Declined option on Kerry Ligtenberg ($1.2 million).

    Cruz was adequate for parts of last year, but he certainly isn't a guy you want to keep around at any significant expense. The Orioles found a slightly better replacement for him (12/14/03). He's gone to Tampa, where he really doesn't have a place to play given that Julio Lugo is the incumbent shortstop there and is coming off a decent 2003 season. Ligtenberg might've been worth keeping around at $1.2 million, but he's gone to Toronto.

11/20/03 -
Claimed Walter Young off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Unlikely to have an impact on the major league level. That said, Walter Young's been a productive minor league hitter, and by all accounts, he's a lot of fun to watch. Picking him up for nothing more than the cost of a waiver claim is a pretty nice move.

12/05/03 -
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Tony Batista.

    Being replaced by Melvin Mora at third in Baltimore. Batista was pretty bad in 2003, finishing up with a .235/.270/.393 line in 161 games (631 at bats). He'll move to Montreal, where he should be something of an improvement on the likes of Jamey Carroll and Fernando Tatis, but he really hasn't shown much since 2000. Good for 25 home runs, but not a whole lot more.

12/14/03 -
Signed Miguel Tejada to a six year, $72 million contract.

    A lot of money, but the Orioles wanted to make a statement (that they're willing to spend money), and they succeeded. While his OBP isn't quite as high as you'd like from a guy making this kind of scratch, there's little dispute that he's among the best shortstops in the game and a damn productive hitter. He's slugged at least .472 in each of the last four seasons, and at just 28, is a reasonable bet to continue to be productive over much of the life of this contract. This deal was initially thought to be for something like $54 million, which would've been significantly better - but Tejada's probably not going to be a burden over the next six years.

12/15/03 -
Selected Jose Bautista of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V Draft (1st round, 6th overall).

    Once a very well thought of prospect, the Pirates couldn't find a way to get Bautista on their 40-man roster, so the Orioles snapped him up. Given that Melvin Mora is currently slated to play third everyday and that Bautista might be able to play a credible third (offensively and defensively) right now, it seems possible that he could stick and actually get some time in the majors in 2004.

12/19/03 -
Signed Napoleon Calzado to a minor league contract.
Signed Eddy Garabito to a minor league contract.
Signed Chad Mottola to a minor league contract.

12/20/03 -
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Jason Johnson.
Declined to offer a 2004 contract to Damian Moss.

    With the pitching the Orioles have coming up through the system, it's hard to argue with either of these moves. Moss was brutal in Baltimore in 2003, kudos to the front office for not holding on to him just because he came over in the Ponson deal. He'll be in Tampa in 2004. Jason Johnson's an average innings eater, but likely would've been awarded more than he's worth had the team taken him to arbitration.

12/22/03 -
Signed Javy Lopez to a three year, $22.5 million contract.

    A lot of money for a guy who's had one good season any time recently. Lopez will fill the team's void at catcher this year and potentially at first base in 2005 and 2006, but he'll need to prove that his 2003 wasn't a fluke before this contract looks like a smart investment. If he can continue to slug close to .700 over the next three years, this'll be a bargain. His 2003 performance was just so out of whack with the rest of his career that he's going to have to prove he's worth this kind of money.

12/30/03 -
Signed Mike DeJean to a one year, $1.5 million contract.

    Do the Orioles really consider themselves contenders? If so, signing a guy like DeJean makes some sense...he's a good relief pitcher and could be a contributor in a contender's bullpen. But if not - and realistically, I don't know how they can in 2004 - what's the logic in signing a guy like DeJean to a one year contract? Sure, he improves this iteration of the Baltimore Orioles...but next year, in 2006, in 2007, when the team might actually have a chance to make a run at the division...what do they have to show for it? Mightn't it be an idea to allow your young pitchers to get some valuable experience in the bullpen, even in high leverage spots? I guess if they're going to turn around and ship DeJean out later in the season, I can buy this. Otherwise, I don't really understand it.

01/08/04 -
Invited Napoleon Calzado to spring training.
Invited Raul Casanova to spring training.
Invited Darwin Cubillan to spring training.
Invited Eddy Garabito to spring training.
Invited Luis Lopez to spring training.
Invited Carlos Mendez to spring training.
Invited Pedro Swann to spring training.
Signed Bill Haselman to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed B.J. Surhoff to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    Probably nothing that impacts the team here. Surhoff is pretty much done, he apparently wants to come back, but there's not much room for him anymore. Pedro Swann's been mashing in the minor leagues for years now, and there's no reason to think he's about to break through. Calzado's been okay, advancing as far as AAA Ottawa in 2003, but with no power to speak of - there are much better players in place at the positions he can handle at the major league level. Carlos Mendez did smack around AAA pitching (.347/.375/.500) at Ottawa in 61 games last year, and might get a look, but only because Javy Lopez's backup is probably going to be Geronimo Gil. Not much here to be excited about.

01/10/04 -
Signed Rafael Palmeiro to a one year, $4 million contract.

    Palmeiro is obviously getting old, but he's continued to be a very productive player. As long as the team doesn't have better options at first base and in the outfield corners (because Jay Gibbons could conceivably move to first if they had someone else to play right), this makes some sense. You certainly don't want David Segui or Jack Cust manning first base on a full-time basis, and this is only a one year commitment (with a club option I believe, but I couldn't find terms on it). I'm not sure how much impact signing a guy like Palmeiro for a year will ultimately be in a division that features three of the best teams in baseball, but at least it ought to excite the fans a little to bring in a Hall of Fame caliber player.

01/14/04 -
Signed Sidney Ponson to a three year, $22.5 million contract.

    He's fat, but I really like Ponson. While he's been a health risk his entire career, he's coming off his best season and makes the trade that sent him to San Francisco look that much better now that he comes back to the Orioles. He'll be the #1 starter in what ought to be a good but inexperienced rotation.

01/16/04 -
Invited Mike Fontenot to spring training.
Invited John Maine to spring training.
Signed Keith Osik to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    Both Fontenot and Maine have great shots to be major leaguers in some capacity in the not-too-distant future, but not yet. You know what Osik brings to the table, and it's not much.

01/20/04 -
Signed Jerry Hairston Jr. to a one year, $1.65 million contract. (avoided arbitration)
Signed Luis Matos to a one year, $975,000 contract. (avoided arbitration)

    I'll be honest - I didn't realize how good Hairston was last year. He was hurt, but his numbers (even including those he accumulated after he returned, which were crappy) were easily the best of his career. If he can come close to replicating those, he's an asset to the team at second base and a bargain at this price. Matos also had a breakthrough season, and bringing him back at this price is a steal.

01/28/04 -
Signed Clay Bellinger to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.
Signed Melvin Mora to a three year, $10.5 million contract.
Signed Rob Ramsay to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    Mora's probably the Opening Day third baseman now that Tony Batista is gone to Montreal. Mora was terrific in 2003 (.317/.418/.503, easily the best season of his career), but his real value is probably in his versatility - he can play any infield or outfield spot and not embarrass himself offensively or defensively. He's already 32 though and unlikely to match his 2003 numbers, so the contract seems a little bit excessive. Neither Bellinger nor Ramsay are likely to have any impact with the major league team.

02/04/04 -
Signed Mark McLemore to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

    A crappy, older version of Mora. Not long ago, McLemore was a valuable contributor in Seattle, but while he's got a decent shot at making this team, his offensive contributions from 2003 (.233/.318/.314) don't point to him being an asset. I don't know what McLemore brings to the team that they don't already have in Mora and Brian Roberts (a much younger player with more offensive skills who can also play a few positions).

02/11/04 -
Signed B.J. Ryan to a one year, $1.275 million contract. (avoided arbitration)

    Eh. Ryan's been an average reliever over the past three seasons, though he took some steps forward in 2003 with an increased strikeout rate and decreased home run rate. There are a lot of relievers out there, but $1.275 million isn't really breaking the bank, particularly with the way the team threw around money this offseason.

02/12/04 -
Signed Jay Gibbons to a one year, $2.6 million contract. (avoided arbitration)

    Not a guy I want to pay a whole lot more than this to, since he's not that young (he'll be 27 in 2004) and kind of limited in what he can do. That said, he can handle right field and hits for some power, so he's worth keeping around until they can find a viable alternative.

03/01/04 -
Invited Jeffrey Montani to spring training.
Invited Richard Stahl to spring training.

    I'll be rooting for Montani, a product of the state university system of the great state of New York (he went to Binghamton). He's been a minor league closer to this point, racking up 38 saves over the past two seasons between rookie league Bluefield and A Delmarva. I'm sure he's just in camp so the organization can take a look at him. Stahl's a first rounder from 1999 who also finished at Delmarva.

It's a good thing that Orioles owner Peter Angelos wants to spend on his team again, and we're getting to a point now where it looks like we might have a division in the AL East where every team is competitive (I can't remember such a division in recent years) before too long. Tampa's not good yet, but there's a lot of young talent there. My hope is that what could be a down year in Baltimore in 2004 (with 19 games a piece against the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays) doesn't discourage them, as they should have some really good young pitching coming soon. It's a shame they missed out on Vladimir Guerrero, who they were close to signing, as he would've really set the tone for an excellent offensive team. As it is, the additions of Tejada and Palmeiro help, but I wonder if it'll be anywhere near enough to compete with the dynamite lineups the three divisional powers are likely to be sporting for the forseeable future.