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And a few foul balls off the end of the bat: Boston signed Bill Mueller (a generous $4.5 MM over two years) to play third and bat second, but won't that make Shea Hillenbrand suitors, if any exist, lower their offers? Also in the "take my 3B... please" department, it looks like everyone is telling the Expos that they won't accept Tatis, no matter how enticing Colon or Vasquez would make the package. Joe Randa is still free to a good home; that is, K.C. would accept a "C" prospect from anyone willing to pay him, and Jose Hernandez or Tyler Houston are FA options, but Tampa prefers Chris (insert devilish joke here) Truby, while the Rockies signed long-ago Jays draftee Chris Stynes, who will need a huge Coors effect to make a significant contribution at a power position.

Albie Lopez is the Royals' answer to their abysmal pitching? "We see him as a guy who can bridge the gap for our young starters to the tail end of the bullpen," general manager Dullard Baird said. If that's true, expect Albie (43-56, 4.73 career) to pitch four or five innings, every game.

What else is new? The Sporting News believes that George Steinbrenner is the most powerful person in sports. Bud Selig (#3) does not.

Felix Heredia settled for a minor-league deal and spring training invitation from the Reds; he will not be missed in Toronto. The Rangers acquired Chad Kreuter, formerly Chan Ho Park's personal C, to compete with Todd Greene for the coveted role of Einar Diaz' backup. The former Texas backstop, Ivan something, waits for the phone to ring.

Shallow end of the pool: predict who the Tigers' and D-Rays' designated 2003 all-stars will be. I'll go with Dmitri Young and Aubrey Huff. The prizes, if someone donates them, will be Robert Fick and Randy Winn bobbleheads.

The annual Jeff Kent Award for irresponsible off-season conduct has a front-runner: talented young Padres' lefty Oliver "don't call me Odalis" Perez ignored his agreement not to play winter ball. Speaking of JK, here's the ESPN Hot Stove Heater for the Astros. John Sickels' minor-league analysis is better, as was the case with the Blue Jays. Sickels will be on an ESPN chat at 4:30 this afternoon to answer your Matt Ford questions.

Todd Hollandsworth is now a Marlin, which suggests that Kevin Millar will end up in a more comfortable spot, as a DH/Utility OF with an AL team. Though the Jays' bench is getting crowded, I'd still welcome another righty OBP freak to Toronto. Today is the last day for free agents offered arbitration to re-up with their former teams, and the Cards' Chuck Finley is among those expected to leave for good. (Actually, they can re-sign with their original teams after May 1.) That's all for now in this collection of odds and ends from beyond the GTA.

In addition to congratulations, sincere sympathy to Eddie Murray, who attended his sister's funeral on what should have been a joyous day. I'm sure his induction speech will be tinged with sadness. Did you know he was a high-school teammate of Ozzie Smith? The Wiz recalls.
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_Kent - Wednesday, January 08 2003 @ 06:10 PM EST (#99809) #
Here is the chat transcript with Sickels, who thinks it's a bad time to be an Orioles fan:

They have the worst farm system I've looked at so far, very dry. They don't have a single Grade A or Grade B prospect that I can tell. The new regime has their work cut out for them.

It doesn't look good for their new AAA affiliate, the Ottawa Lynx. Asked about the great pitching prospects in the San Francisco system (Foppert, Ainsworth & Williams) Sickels provided a concise summary of the "science" of prospect evaluation:

Of the three, I expect one will get traded, one will get hurt, and one will end up in the Giants rotation for the next five years. Which is which I cannot say.
_Sean - Wednesday, January 08 2003 @ 10:52 PM EST (#99810) #
Curses, he's implicitly revealed my fantasy drafting strategy in deep keeper leagues this upcoming season: draft them all! :) One might charitably call that covering all possibilities with a shotgun...but with these Giants pitchers, the reward could well be worth the risk.
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