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Thursday, August 7
Plenty of big names passing through waivers

By Jayson Stark

All those trade rumors that kept us all so mesmerized in the hours before the trading deadline might be springing back to life any minute now.

Many of those same names that were flashing in bright lights on many a GM's bulletin board before the deadline are now back in play, because they were among the group of players that cleared the first flurry of waivers this week.

We've gathered a partial list of players who can now be traded this month, from a variety of baseball sources. Here are just some of the players who maneuvered through waivers:

Waivers 101
Warning from the surgeon general: Trying to make sense of baseball's waiver system can be hazardous to your mental health.

There are all kinds of waivers for all different occasions. But essentially, here is how waiver deals can be made between Aug. 1 and the Aug. 31 deadline for setting potential playoff rosters:

  • Virtually every player in the major leagues will be placed on waivers this month, whether a team intends to trade that player or not. If nothing else, the sheer volume of names can at least disguise players whom clubs do want to sneak through so they can be dealt.

  • If a player isn't claimed by any team in either league, he can be traded until the end of the month to anyone.

  • If a player is claimed, but only by one team, the player can be traded only to the team that claims him.

  • If a player is claimed by more than one team, the club with the worst record in that player's league gets priority -- and the player can be traded only to that team.

  • If a player is claimed only by teams in the other league, the club with the worst record in the other league gets priority -- and the player can be traded just to that team.

  • If a deal can't be worked out or the team doesn't want to trade that player, he can be pulled back off waivers once in August. If he is placed on waivers again before September, he can't be recalled a second time.

  • Or, if a team is just hoping to dump a player's salary, it can simply allow a team which claimed that player to have him for a small waiver fee. If that happens, the team that gets the player has to pay his entire salary. That's how the Yankees were stuck with Jose Canseco and the Padres were stuck with Randy Myers in recent years: They claimed those players, thinking they were just blocking other teams from getting them. Instead, their old clubs said: "You claimed him. You got him."

  • In the past, many teams claimed players just to keep them from being traded to contenders with a better record. This year, that isn't expected to happen as often, because most teams can't afford to get stuck with a big contract if they're awarded a player they really didn't want.
    -- Jayson Stark
  • Starting pitchers
    Livan Hernandez (Expos)
    John Thomson (Rangers)
    Freddy Garcia (Mariners)
    Sterling Hitchcock (Yankees)
    Rick Reed (Twins)

    Relief pitchers
    Jose Jimenez (Rockies)
    Mike DeJean (Brewers)
    Antonio Alfonseca (Cubs)

    Rafael Palmeiro (Rangers)
    Tony Clark (Mets)
    Adam Kennedy (Angels)
    Darin Erstad (Angels)

    Among those who didn't clear: Joe Kennedy (Devil Rays), Kerry Ligtenberg (Orioles) and Ben Weber (Angels). Keep in mind that hundreds of players haven't even been through the process yet. So there will be more players out there in the days ahead.

    Prospect Rumblings
    We now present scouting reviews of some of the higher-profile prospects dealt before the trading deadline:

    LHP Brandon Claussen (to Reds from Yankees, for Aaron Boone): "I saw him in his first game (in the Reds' system), and his fastball was 86-88 mph," says one scout. "If he gets back to 90-92, then they've really got something, because his makeup is good, his knowledge of pitching is good and he throws his curve and change to both sides of the plate." But another scout says Claussen's velocity has steadily declined since early in the year, when he made one of the quickest returns from Tommy John surgery in memory: "It doesn't surprise me to see him go through a period where he has kind of a dead arm. He was back pretty quick from that surgery. I think it'll be a year before you see where he's really at."

    2B Freddy Sanchez (to Pirates from Red Sox, for Jeff Suppan and Scott Sauerbeck): "I see him as being a dangerous, table-setter type hitter. Ideally, he'll be a No. 2 hitter, that type guy. He's turned out to be a lot better than what I initially thought. He can get on base and hit for average. I don't see him being a big-time power guy, but he'll hit a few home runs. The big worry is, he won't get the protection in the Pirates lineup he would have gotten in Boston."

    RHP Scott Proctor (to Yankees from Dodgers, for Robin Ventura): "As a starter, he was just a fringe guy. But they converted him to short relief, and his velocity jumped unbelievably. He's up there at 95-97 now. Last two times out, we had him in the mid- to upper 90s, and he's got a good breaking ball. They might have gotten a sleeper there."

    LHP Ryan Hannaman (to Orioles from Giants, for Sidney Ponson): "Here's a guy not many people are aware of who could really be something special. He's had biceps tendinitis this year two times, and it's affected his velocity. But when he regains that, probably next year, you're talking about a power left-hander who throws in the mid-90s. And how many guys like that are out there?"

    LHP Mike Gonzalez (to Red Sox from Pirates in the Sauerbeck trade, then returned to the Pirates in the Suppan deal): "I couldn't believe they gave him up in the first place. This guy isn't far from being a big leaguer, and when he gets there, he's got a high ceiling. He runs it up there at up to 93 mph, with the makings of an average slider and changeup. Left-handers with that kind of arm are hard to find."

    LHP Royce Ring (to Mets from White Sox, for Roberto Alomar): "I've always liked him. Big left-hander with a plus fastball and the makings of a good breaking ball. Projects as a setup guy, but I wouldn't rule out closing. Should be at least a Mike Remlinger-type, and might be better than that."

    2B Victor Diaz (to Mets from Dodgers, for Jeromy Burnitz): "Better-than-average hitter with excellent bat potential, but doesn't look comfortable in the field. Good natural ability with the bat, but finding him a position is a problem."

    RHP Joe Valentine (to Reds from A's, for Jose Guillen): "Some people think he can close, but command is the issue. At least he's got a fastball he can throw by some people. It could all come down to developing that second pitch. I don't care if he can get his splitter over the plate. If he can just get it in front of the plate, he can get guys chasing it."

    Fire-sale Rumblings

  • Here's Pirates GM Dave Littlefield, on allegations by the Yankees that he went out of his way to make deals with the Red Sox (and his former owner in Florida, John Henry) but wouldn't trade with the Yankees: "There's nothing to it. I'm the general manager of the Pirates and I'm ... just trying to get the best players back that I can. That just doesn't follow logic." Littlefield says the Yankees were just one of those "teams you don't match up with very well."

  • The odds of the Pirates making the much-ballyhooed deal that would send Brian Giles and Jason Kendall to San Diego have dropped precipitously in the last few days, as the Padres reconsidered including pitcher Oliver Perez and pitcher Kevin Jarvis balked at deferring money if he was traded to Pittsburgh. The Padres also want to peruse the free-agent market this winter before locking up sizable dollars on Giles and Kendall.

    Littlefield won't comment on that deal, but he admits it's "confusing" to people in Pittsburgh to see his team trading away players they theoretically ought to be trying to build around.

    On the subject of trading away 25-year-old Aramis Ramirez, he says: "I understand it's a confusing message to send to our fans, but at this point, in our analysis of where we're at ... with the ($6-million) commitment we would have made to Ramirez, we can address four or five issues, instead of committing all that money to one guy to play third base."

    Pete Rose Rumblings
    The Cincinnati Reds have a managerial vacancy these days -- and a general managerial vacancy, as well. They're just beginning to line up GM candidates. But two baseball men who are friendly with Reds owner Carl Lindner say Lindner already has a first choice as manager:

    Pete Rose.

    No one would ever admit that publicly, of course. But rumblings about Lindner's passion to hire Rose as his next manager have bounced around baseball since last winter, ever since word got out that Rose could get unsuspended by Bud Selig one of these months.

    "Pete is still a folk hero in Cincinnati," says one friend of Lindner. "There is no doubt that if it were up to the ownership group and if it were up to the people of Cincinnati, Pete would be managing that team next year."

    Trouble is, they won't get to vote on this one. It isn't up to them, and it probably never will be, even if Rose is reinstated this winter.

    Sources close to this situation now say they expect the matter to pull out of Selig's parking lot again following the World Series. Selig clearly has no interest now in upstaging the pennant races or postseason by allowing the Rose circus to set up its tents in the near future. But once the championship tickertape settles to earth in late October, you can expect Rose's furnace to heat up again.

    The first order of business is getting Rose back on the Hall of Fame ballot. Because a player has to appear on that ballot within 20 years of the end of his playing career, Rose doesn't have much time left. His ballot clock runs out after the 2005 election, after which he'd be in limbo until at least the 2008 Veterans Committee election. And both Rose and Selig are well aware of that.

    So if Rose is reinstated, the only instant benefit for him figures to be clearance to appear on the ballot. But beyond that, as much as Rose wants to headfirst it back into baseball employment, there is no indication that Selig plans to allow him to accept a job as significant as manager, at least in the short term.

    There will be a probationary period preventing that type of employment initially. But even once the probation expires, there is expected to be a clause requiring the commissioner to approve any job Rose is offered inside baseball.

    So is Pete Rose going to manage the 2004 Reds? No shot. But is he going to end up working for the Reds some day? That appears almost inevitable. The Reds know he can sell tickets and make them money. Rose knows there is no better forum to make himself more money. So it's a dual marketing bonanza just waiting to happen. And as always, the only remaining question is when.
    -- Jayson Stark

    A baseball source outside the Pirates' organization says owner Kevin McClatchy has been under pressure by his partners to reduce losses. Which is one thing. But it's not out of the realm that the Pirates could have a payroll next year that's lower than their revenue-sharing income. And that could raise a massive stink among teams paying into the revenue-sharing pool.

    Selig will say only that he's confident the Pirates' owners "will be investing a lot of money in building that club back up." But he also promises that the commissioner's office now "monitors every dollar clubs spend, down to the last quarter. We know exactly what they take in and what they spend it on ... and if it's not spent on baseball operations, the commissioner moves in and makes sure they do. They have to. That's part of the labor agreement."

    All we can advise people in Pittsburgh is: Remember those words.

  • The Yankees also accused Selig last week of roaring in to block the Yankees from sending $2 million (twice the commissioner's $1-million limit) to the Reds as part of an Aaron Boone-Gabe White deal, but never saying a word when the Red Sox included $1.25 million in their trade with Cincinnati for Scott Williamson.

    Selig's response: "The same rule was, and is, applied to everybody. There was one matter (the Williamson deal) which we missed, but that was an oversight and it's been dealt with."

    Selig won't reveal how that "oversight" has been resolved, but it's believed the clubs will be required to include a second, lesser player in the trade this month to account for the extra dollars. The commish calls charges that he has different standards for the Yankees "beyond ludicrous."

  • Let's try to clear up what the Reds did wrong and right last week. Selig says he has no problem with the Reds dealing away veteran players "because they got prospects" back. And from a baseball standpoint, Claussen is an excellent, potential top-of-the-rotation prospect, while Aaron Harang and Valentine figure at least to pitch in the big leagues.

    Where the Reds went wrong was having COO John Allen say, at the press conference announcing the firings of Bob Boone and Jim Bowden, that the Reds weren't giving up on the season -- and then dealing away their closer (Scott Williamson), their hottest hitter (Guillen) and their most popular player (Aaron Boone).

    Allen also claimed these were baseball deals, not budget-slashing. But money was at the heart of all of them. Besides the salaries the Reds moved, they also raked in more than $3 million in those deals -- and asked, by several accounts, for considerably more.

    So could the Reds trades eventually help them upgrade their pitching? No doubt. But were they honest about their plans or the reasons those deals were made? There isn't a jury in America they could convince of that.

    Miscellaneous Rumblings

  • According to several sources that spoke with officials of the Reds and Dodgers, the Dodgers were prepared to trade Odalis Perez for Aaron Boone before the deadline, either in a two-way deal or a three-teamer involving the Red Sox.

  • The Phillies' public posture before the deadline was that Brandon Duckworth was better than most teams' fifth starters, so they didn't feel a need to be aggressive in trying to upgrade the rotation. But clubs that were in contact with them report they did make modest offers to the Pirates for Jeff Suppan and to the Blue Jays for Kelvim Escobar.

  • But the Phillies' biggest concern is the back end of their bullpen. After Jose Mesa had back-to-back disastrous outings Saturday and Sunday (nine batters faced, four runs, two homers, one out), manager Larry Bowa actually called a local talk show on his way home from the park to announce he had no choice but to go to a bullpen by committee for a while.

    Four months into the season, Mesa's WHIP number (1.73 walks and hits per inning pitched) was higher than any current closer's in the major leagues. And while pitching coach Joe Kerrigan thinks Mesa's only problem is that he has gotten too hunched over -- a habit Kerrigan believes he can undo with a few side sessions -- the longer it takes Mesa to get back to the closer's job, the less chance there is he'll have the same job next year.

    Mesa would guarantee himself a $5.95-million option for next season by finishing 55 games this year. But he has been stuck on 40 games finished since July 30 and, through Wednesday, had finished only five of the Phillies' 21 games since the All-Star break. At that rate, he would wind up with just 52 games finished -- and place the decision on his future in the Phillies' hands instead of his own. Stay tuned.

  • The Phillies prospect most asked about before the deadline was 19-year-old left-hander Cole Hamels, their No. 1 pick in 2002. But Hamels (6-1, 1.08 ERA, 83 1/3 IP, 44 H, 121 K at Lakewood and Clearwater) has already whooshed past Gavin Floyd, Taylor Buckholz and Chase Utley as the Phillies' No. 1 prospect. So he's going nowhere.

    "My guess," says Buddy Biancalana, his manager this year at Lakewood, "is that, if you put him in the big leagues right now and gave him 36 starts and he held up mentally -- which I think he would -- he could probably win 12 games. But certainly, there's no need to rush him."

  • There are already rumblings that just-axed Reds GM Jim Bowden could surface in Tampa Bay next year if the club decides to replace GM Chuck LaMar. Bowden and Lou Piniella worked together in Cincinnati, and Bowden has always been a favorite of Tampa Bay front-office man Syd Thrift.

  • Reports that Mike Piazza has requested that the Mets trade him appear to be overblown. But a friend of Piazza says that if the Mets decide this winter to shop him, he would be open to being dealt to a limited number of clubs -- especially if he could wind up in a desirable AL location as a catcher-DH.

  • Through Wednesday, Alfonso Soriano was 7 for his last 37 (.189), had been dropped out of the Yankees' leadoff hole and had walked once in his last 86 trips to the plate. Even Yankees people have privately been expressing frustration with his lack of patience lately.

    "He's back to being the old Soriano. He swings at everything," says one AL scout. "He's been expanding the zone, and it's in his head now."

    A Giant pickup?

    The Giants are combing the waiver wire, looking for one more bat -- most likely an outfielder.

    Should Reggie Sanders clear waivers, it wouldn't be out of the question for the Giants to take a shot at bringing him back for another October appearance.

  • The good news for Drew Henson is that over 13 games ending Tuesday, he was hitting .391 (18 for 46), with nine doubles, a home run and 17 RBI. The bad news is that the Yankees' trade for Aaron Boone pretty much announced to both the baseball and football worlds that Henson now has no future with the Yankees.

    "He just has not made progress," says one scout who has seen Henson extensively. "He's been stalled for three years. I haven't seen one ounce of progress. It's one thing not to read a breaking ball. Some guys are always going to be worse at that than others. But he swings at pitches that make you shake your head. He's a great kid. I root for him. But I think that if the money wasn't there, he'd be playing football."

    Every indication is that the Houston Texans are running the old Columbus sweep to give him the opportunity to do that, too. But Henson can still earn more than $10 million from the Yankees over the next two years without having to worry about a single 345-pound lineman squashing him. So you can understand why he hasn't shown much interest in the NFL.

  • Scouts following the Cardinals are reporting that the quality of Woody Williams' stuff has dropped in recent weeks. Williams is on pace to pitch 229 innings, which would be a career high. "He's logging a lot of innings and really carrying a load for that club," says one scout. "He's just not as crisp as he was the first month or two. That team is in dire need of pitching."

  • Is Xavier Nady a good enough centerpiece in a deal for the Pirates to trade Brian Giles? One scout who has seen him often says: "Defensively, I don't know where to play him. He's not an asset at any position. But he has a chance to hit 25 or 30 homers a year. He's got serious raw power and the ability to drive the ball. Whether he'll hit good pitching, I don't know. But he'll cripple 25 to 30 a year."

  • Finally, there may be no set timetable for Pete Rose's reinstatement, but it's clear Rose is doing his best to stay on his pal Bud Selig's good side.

    One major-league official said recently that Rose was helping his chances by being on his best behavior in recent months. And in an appearance this week at a Joliet Jackhammers Northern League game (the team his son, Pete Jr., plays for), Rose spewed so much praise for Selig, he even joked: "If I went to Milwaukee, I might buy a car from him."

    Asked by reporters what he would change about baseball if he were commissioner, Rose quipped: "I'd put me back in baseball. Wouldn't you?"

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for

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