|Pictured above: Belle, Walker, Milliams, Boone, R.Johnson, Boggs, Clemens, Vaughn & Leiter.|
A Brave New World
The off-season kicked off with the Atlanta Braves signing both Johnny Damon (9 years/$74.5 million) and Jason Giambi (8 years/$54 million) to contract extensions that will keep them wearing tomahawks on the front of their jerseys for years and years...
Giambi, 26, is coming off back-to-back solid seasons for the Bravos. Giambi hit .302, 33 HR & 97 RBI during the 1996 MLB Season, while he followed that with a .314, 27 HR & 117 RBI tag line. Giambi had a .894 OPS in each of those seasons, while collecting at least 200 hits in each, with a combined 9.9 WAR during the two-year period.
The Braves saw a great opportunity in building a offensive nucleus that will go along with Chipper Jones, who is signed through the 2004 season.
The Braves are one of the most, if not most successful franchise of the 1990's, as their winning percentage has ranged from no lower than .580 (1991) to as high as .654 (1996).
1997 Award Winners
The Toronto Blue Jays' Larry Walker has won his 3rd Most Valuable Player of the Year Award, all of them while playing north of the border in his native Canada. Walker, previously won the 1992 & 1994 N.L. MVP Awards while playing for the Expos, while this season he won his 1st A.L. version of the award, while playing for the Jays.
Walker batted .359 with 40 HR & 119 RBI, while leading the A.L. with a 1.092 OPS & .651 slugging (.441 on-base percentage) -- All except for the homers & ribbies, were career bests.
Toronto acquired Walker, prior to the season from the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for star second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Derek Lowe. Walker signed a 8-year, $48.7 million deal with Oakland back in December 1994, and is signed through the 2002 season.
Griffey led the N.L. with 55 HR, 147 RBI, .614 slugging & .984 OPS. It was Junior's 2nd straight year of topping the half-century mark in homers, while he has compiled 305 RBI over that period as well. Griffey was the significant reason that the Pirates surprised everyone, by winning the N.L. East last season.
The Rookies of the Year were both outfielders in Mark Kotsay (Baltimore / A.L.) and J.D. Drew (San Francisco / N.L.). Drew hit 26 HR & 99 RBI for the Giants, while Kotsay batted .291 with 11 HR for the Orioles.
Pedro watched his 1997 salary of $3.2 million jump to $5.6 million (thanks to arbitration), while he is signed through the 1998 MLB Season.
The Yankees' Sterling Hitchcock had an excellent year, posting a 17-7 record & league-leading 2.54 ERA, on his way to winning the A.L. Cy Young Award. Hitchcock logged 172 strikeouts, 1.09 WHIP & 4.7 WAR, while helping the Yankees win the A.L. Pennant.
New Faces in New Places
Last season was just the beginning for the Pittsburgh Pirates (landing Griffey) as they just inked a 4-year deal with Albert Belle worth $37.6 million ($9.4 million per year). The two players may be stark in difference when it comes to personality, but both combined are likely to give N.L. pitchers nightmares on a nightly basis.
The defending World Champs made a huge splash in signing Randy Johnson to a 4-year deal worth $34.4 million. The signing will give the Dodgers a two-headed monster at the top of that rotation in Johnson & Pedro. Late January, Al Leiter signed a 5-year deal with the Dodgers.
Roger Clemens, 35, changed Sox, by signing with the Chicago White Sox, which he signed a 3-year deal worth $17.1 million. Clemens has not logged a season with double-digit wins since his 1993 campaign, and has a 31-48 record during the past 4 seasons.
The lifelong Twins starting pitcher Scott Erickson, will be wearing a different uniform for a change, this time in kelly green. The Athletics netted the star for 5 years, $21.4 million.
The World Champion Dodgers' rotation took a little hit (little since they landed the "Big Unit"), as Pedro Astacio signed a 5-year deal for $33.5 million with the Cincinnati Reds. Astacio has a 74-51 career record with a 3.25 ERA.
The Minnesota Twins land 3B-Matt Williams to a 6-year deal with an annual salary of $6.8 million. Williams spent the past 5 seasons with the Blue Jays. Matty also has 324 career home runs, while hitting 40+ HR for 4 straight years from 1992-1995.
The Pirates continued to show that they are serious about contending, by acquiring some pitching in starter Alex Fernandez ($30 million over 4 years) and reliever Tom Gordon (3-yr deal for annual salary of $1.58 m).
The Seattle Mariners land John Burkett to a 5-year deal worth $28.5 million. Burkett is just two years removed from his 20-win season for the Angels.
Todd Stottlemyre settled on a 5-year deal worth $38.4 million ($7.68 m/per yr) with the Rangers. The Rangers want to make it back to the playoffs, after being within one game of their first World Series appearance.
Brady Anderson lands on his 4th team since departing Baltimore in February of 1994. Brady signed a 5-year deal worth $31 million ($6.2 m/per year).
Lifelong Giants star, Will Clark, signs a 4-year deal with the Twins worth $15.36 million.
Andy Benes signed a 2-year deal worth $6.48 million with the Giants. Benes spent most of his career with the Padres, until being acquired in a deal with the Braves last season. With the Braves, Benes struggled with 6-7 record & 5.17 ERA over 17 starts.
Doug Jones, 40, coming off a season where he led the A.L. in Saves (40) as a Royal, will take his 258 career saves with him to the Texas Rangers, in a 2-year deal worth $2.28 million. The Royals answered back by signing Jose Mesa to a 3-year deal for a total of $4.08 million, which promises Mesa the closing role.
The Dodgers land RP-Heathcliff Slocumb to a 1-year deal worth $1.24 million. Slocumb has quietly compiled 118 saves over the last 4 years with the Cubs. The Dodgers also traded OF-Henry Rodriguez to the Giants, in exchange for SS-Royce Clayton; Clayton will be a step-up from Dave Berg last season.
Chris Hoiles, after an off-year in Cincinnati, signed a 3-year deal with the Minnesota Twins for $8.28 million. Hoiles failed to hit 20 home runs for the first time in 6 years.
The Twins also added SP-Jaime Moyer to a possible 3-year deal that could net $18 million.
The Kansas City Royals acquired 2B-Mickey Morandini from Seattle, in exchange for prospects SP-Gil Meche, SS-Sean Hagen & LF-Justin Bowles.
The Detroit Tigers apparently see something in veteran RP-Anthony Telford, so much that they traded C-Bobby Estalella, SP-Ryan Glynn, 3B-Gabe Alvarez & $50,000 in cash to the Giants in exchange for his talents. The Tigers also landed veteran John Franco in a one-year deal worth $1.1 million; Franco owns 288 career saves.
Barry Larkin signed a 5-year extension to stay put in Texas, for $51.2 million. Larkin is a 9-time All-Star, with 8 Platinum Slugger Awards.
Mark McGwire signed a 4-year extension with the Oakland Athletics, at a rate of $11.6 million per year, while he closes in on career #500 in the home run department (currently sits at 447).
The Atlanta Braves acquired the following...
- SP-Steve Trachsel to a 6-year deal worth $11.3 million.
- 2B-Bret Boone to a 2-year deal worth $2 million.
- SS-Mike Bordick to a 1-year deal worth $600,000.
- SP-Rick Ankiel (1998 1st Round Draft Pick - 27th Overall) to a minor league contract & $630,000 signing bonus.
- Drafted OF-Jeff Abbott (Rule 5), promoting him to the big league roster.
- Traded SS-Jeff Blauser to the Houston Astros in exchange for C-Benito Santiago.
- Traded OF-Ruben Rivera (while retaining $1.3 million of his 1998 salary) & RP-Scott Schoeneweis to the Cincinnati Reds for prospects IF-Mike Caruso, RP-Corey Ehlers & SP-Adam Virchis.
- Signed IF-Mike Benjamin to a minor league deal.
- Trades SP-Alan Benes in a salary-cut move to the Houston Astros, in exchange for P-Cory Lidle, RP-Lorenzo Barcelo, and minor league IF-Ramon Martinez & RF-Chris Bryant. Benes won 16 games for Atlanta last season.
- Signed RP-Dennis Cook to a 2-year deal worth $3.19 million.
- Signed backup 3B-Charlie Hayes for $700,000.
- Extended SP-Tom Glavine's contract for 7 more years, $42 million. This will keep the trio of Maddux, Glavine & Smoltz together, through at least 2002.
- Traded 2B-Joey Cora to the Houston Astros in exchange for SP-Darryl Kile.