February 21 through February 27
Previous installment: Feb. 14-20
Boston Red Sox
Signed: SS Ivan Ochoa
The slick-fielding, switch-hitting Ochoa made his big league debut last July 12, as the Giants searched for someone—anyone—who could provide more offense than Brian Bocock. Ochoa, who had signed as a minor league free agent, fit the bill, even in batting .200/.244/.267. The 26-year-old opted for free agency last October rather than accept another outright assignment to the minors.
Released: RHP Ryan Acosta
Chicago White Sox
Released: RHP Onarkys Paniagua
Signed: OF Adam Greenberg
Removed from 40-man roster: 3B Andy Marte
No other team claimed Marte on the waiver wire after he’d been designated for assignment, so he’ll head back to Triple-A (Columbus, not Buffalo), where he’ll have to earn another spot on the 40-man roster. A Joel Guzman-sized disappointment at the big league level, Marte batted all of .211/.265/.337 in 513 at-bats from ’05 through ’08, good for an OPS+ of 56. A righthanded batter, he showed flashes of utility versus MLB lefties (.293/.379/.448 in 67 plate appearances last year) and he’s still just 25 years old, but this is not the career path the Indians had envisioned in trading for the two-time organizational No. 1 prospect (’04 Braves, ’06 Red Sox). If he doesn’t get himself back in Cleveland’s good graces, Marte at least has minor league free agency to look forward to, and that may be all he’s overqualified for (he’s just a .268/.337/.473 hitter in Triple-A). Take note: Guzman, himself a No. 1 prospect with the Dodgers in ’05, inked a minor league deal with the Nationals for ’09.
Signed: 2B Mark Bellhorn, 2B Luis Gonzalez
This is Luis A. Gonzalez, the 29-year-old Venezuelan utilityman who last appeared in the big leagues in 2006 with the Rockies. Colorado sold his contract to Yomiuri in 2007 and the righthanded batter managed a .283/.332/.422 line in two Central League seasons, production that isn’t too far off from his stateside big league output. As for Bellhorn, the 34-year-old switch-hitter fared modestly as a Dodgers’ minor leaguer last season, batting .242/.357/.420 for Double-A Jacksonville. Los Angeles released him in July.
Placed on restricted list: OF Jacob Priday
Los Angeles Dodgers
Released: RHP Kieran Mattison
Mattison joins lefthander Juan Cedeno in jumping from a minor league deal with the Dodgers to Taiwan’s major league, the Chinese Professional Baseball League. The duo has signed on with the Sinon Bulls. Mattison, 28, an ’02 nondrafted free agent sign by the Royals from East Carolina, spent all of ’06 and ’07, and half of ’08, pitching in the independent leagues before signing with the Dodgers last July. He had re-signed with Los Angeles before Sinon came calling.
Signed: RHP Eric Gagne
Voluntarily retired: 2B Kenny Holmberg
A career in coaching may await Holmberg, whose father Dennis has coached and managed in the Blue Jays system since 1979, spending the past seven years with short-season Auburn. As for Kenny, he was a Brewers’ 22nd-round pick from Embry-Riddle (Fla.) in 2005, who despite a loud debut in the Pioneer League (.372/.450/.623 in 207 at-bats for Helena) struggled to establish himself in three years in A-ball, culminating in a .218/.356/.254 season for high Class A Brevard County in ’08. For more on the 25-year-old Holmberg, check out Matt Meyers’ in-depth feature from the 2006 season.
Signed: OF Justin Huber
A native Australian, Huber, 26, seemed destined for greater things when he hit his way to Double-A as a 20-year-old catcher in 2003. Traded by the Mets to the Royals a year later to help facilitate their trade for Kris Benson, he thoroughly enjoyed his time in the Royals system. With Double-A Wichita in 2005 he batted .343/.432/.570 in 335 at-bats to lead the Texas League in all three averages and earn a promotion to Triple-A. Because Huber was out of options last March, the Royals sold him to the Padres, who tried to work him into their outfield mix, but he hit .246/.303/.393 in part-time play and was passed by other outfielders in the organization like Jody Gerut, Chase Headley and Scott Hairston—and passed over on the waiver wire on his way down to Triple-A Portland. San Diego couldn’t assure Huber playing time at Portland this season; that time figures to go to players like Will Venable (if he doesn’t make the big league team), Chad Huffman, Mike Baxter, Craig Cooper and Drew Macias.
New York Mets
Released: RHP Yury Santana, LHP Julio Polanco
Signed: 1B John Urick
St. Louis Cardinals
Released: C Ismael Cardona
San Diego Padres
Signed: RHP Walter Silva
A seven-year veteran of the Mexican League, the 31-year-old Silva went 7-8, 4.21 for Monterrey last season, striking out 60 and walking 49 in 115 innings over 21 starts.
Signed: RHP Adam Harben, C Yamid Haad, OF Michael Wilson
The signing of Ken Griffey Jr. bumped Wilson from the 40-man roster, but the Southern League’s reigning home run champ dusted himself after being released and re-signed with Seattle, the only organization he’s ever known.
Tampa Bay Rays
Signed: RHP Jason Isringhausen
Signed: RHP Kris Benson, LHP Eddie Guardado
Signed: LHP Dave Williams
Released: LHP Odalis Perez
Williams, 29, spent the 2008 season in Japan, starting seven games for Yokohama of the Central League. He went 2-2, 4.26 with eight strikeouts and four walks in 15 1/3 innings. Williams last was seen in the U.S. pitching for the Mets, who traded righthander Robert Manuel to the Reds to obtain his services in May 2006. Actually, Williams last was seen in Triple-A after he got a late start to the ’07 season because of offseason surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
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