-P- The Bucs have announced that Tony Beasley will be their new third base coach, Gary Varsho will be the new bench coach, and Luis Dorante will be the bullpen coach. Also, Jeff Andrews will be the Bucs' new pitching coach. Obviously, Andrews is the most important hire here. It's hard to tell what to expect of him based on his performance at Altoona (in 2003-2005) and Indianapolis (2006-2007), but he has the advantage of having worked with the Pirates' young pitchers before, and most of them encountered the problems they had either before or after Andrews worked with them. Zach Duke also pitched very well in a brief stint working with Andrews (in 2004), so maybe Andrews can help there. An effective Duke would obviously be a huge boost for the Pirates, and he's probably the Bucs pitcher who would benefit the most from informed coaching.
-P- The Pirates also finalized their roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft, and they made some surprising moves, dropping Josh Phelps, Shane Youman and Josh Sharpless and adding Brian Bixler, Olivo Astacio, Ronald Belisario and former Astros pitching prospect Jimmy Barthmaier. Belisario I knew almost nothing about, except that he came from the Marlins organization. He has a history of arm problems and didn't pitch at all well last year, so I'm not sure what the Pirates are thinking there. Astacio is a hard-throwing relief prospect, so he's a good guy to protect. Barthmaier, who the Bucs claimed on waivers, flopped spectacularly this year, but he's only 23 and had a very good performance record before 2007, so he's a good addition to the organization.
As for Phelps, the Pirates probably figured that his 2007 was mostly a fluke (which they're probably right about), that they didn't want to take him to arbitration, and that they had plenty of corner guys in the organization already. I might have tried to trade him, but maybe they already did that and other teams weren't convinced by the few dozen great at bats Phelps had for the Pirates. I like Phelps and would've liked to keep him, but I can understand the rationale for not doing so. Youman is not worth worrying about and neither, probably, is Sharpless.
The Pirates left Jesse Chavez and Jamie Romak unprotected. Romak probably won't get picked and will almost certainly be returned if he is chosen, although I'll be upset if he loses three months of development because the Bucs didn't protect him. He's just as far along as Jose Bautista was when Bautista got Rule 5'd in 2003, but he doesn't have Bautista's versatility, so he'd be more difficult to hide on a bench. Still, with all the crap the Bucs still have on their 40-man, I don't know why they'd want to take that chance. As for Chavez, he could be taken and I really would've preferred he be protected; he's certainly more interesting than, say, Belisario. But Chavez is not a high-upside player, in any case.
-P- Torii Hunter has agreed on a preliminary basis to a five-year, $90 million deal with the Angels. I'm not surprised by the money, and Hunter's a good player, but that's a whole lot to pay a 32-year-old who isn't a world-class hitter. And didn't the Angels just sign Gary Matthews to a huge free-agent deal last offseason? And didn't Reggie Willits emerge as a credible leadoff option? And what about Juan Rivera? And former star Garret Anderson? Vlad Guerrero is rightly entrenched in one corner and Hunter will presumably play center, so that leaves only one outfield spot for all those other guys. They'll probably give it to Anderson, who's really not a great option anymore, despite a decent comeback season in 2007.
-P- The Brewers have agreed to a contract with Jason Kendall and traded catcher Johnny Estrada to the Mets for Guillermo Mota. All three players were terrible last year, but I'll take Kendall as the guy most likely to continue to be terrible this year. The Brewers don't have any good catching prospects near the majors, so they have some work to do to upgrade that position. They really need bullpen help, but I still don't know why they'd trade Estrada, who's at least potentially an average hitter. Kendall has nothing left, and there's nothing fluky about it; he just has no power to keep pitchers honest.