While there have been a number of trades in the United Rotisserie League over the past few months, the Atkins Alley Cats and the Conway Capitols found a way to make a new type of deal, including minor leaguers drafted this week in a deal that sent pitcher Chein-Mein Wang, minor league outfielder Chris B. Young and financial considerations to Conway for pitcher Nate Robertson and minor league outfielder Cameron Maybin.
“Maybin had been high on my target list,” said Alley Cats owner Charles Rector, taking time from managing other issues with his unique style to comment to a local reporter. “When Conway drafted him, plus were holding Robertson, I knew I need to make a deal. Losing Wang reduces our publicity department’s juvenile urges as well, so there is a benefit there as well.”
For their part, the Capitols seemed equally excited.
“We’ve been pretty quiet on the trade front, but this is one that we really felt we need to make,” said owner Mark Scott. “Getting a guy like Wang, while providing many marketing opportunities, was nice but having Chris Young in our stable was a real key. We think he may challenge some of our projected starters and be in the majors by the end of the year.”
The minor league draft, on the whole, has gone well according to Commissioner Daniel Shoptaw.
“We’re into the fifth round and only ten days have passed since we started this phase of the URL,” he said in a press conference on Thursday. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see us wrap this up early in February in time to open camps up and get ready for the start of the season.”
Looking to deepen their roster of arms, the Texas Outlaws selected pitcher Homer Bailey as the first pick in the only scheduled United Rotisserie League draft.
“Bailey brings a lot to the table,” said Outlaw owner Robert Arnwine. “He has shown he is very close to being ready for the majors, which gives us insurance in case of injury and motivation in case of lack of performance. Plus, anyone that allows for numerous Simpsons references will keep our promotions department happy and busy.”
Taken second was third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff by the Edwardsville Armada.
“Kevin may see time in the URL sooner rather than later,” said Edwardsville top official David Reed. “We’re anxious to send him to our minor league complex and start working with him.”
Grady Sizemore tested the market twice, but kept coming back to Atkins. Todd Helton, given the same chance, went elsewhere.
Sizemore and Helton were two of the final players to sign on the last day of the United Rotisserie League’s first free agent period. Sizemore, who had been granted his release from the Atkins Alley Cats earlier, resigned with the team for $175 over five years.
“The money is less, that is the most notable thing,” laughed Sizemore at the press conference. “I probably made a mistake in giving up that much cash, but it helped this team get stronger, and the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to be a part of that, even at a lower price.”
The Cats filled out their pitching rotation by signing Rich Hill and Phillip Hughes, young guys who can “make an impact,” according to owner Charles Rector.
Helton, who had been let go from the Brewville Style, hooked on at a reduced rate with Wendy’s Peffercorns.
“Todd is going to be a great addition for us,” said owner Mike Salony. “I think he can really kick start this offense and push us up the standings.”
Also finalizing rosters were the Arkansas Cardinals, who grabbed two low-priced hitters in James Loney and Hideki Matsui, and the Texas Outlaws, who signed Chris Burke to play second base.
The Brewville Style today announced three signings, headlined by the five-year, $140 year deal handed out to second baseman Rickie Weeks.
“We had some cap room, and I don’t know of anyone better to spend it on,” said owner Steve Egge. “Rickie is going to be a cornerstone at the keystone for years to come. It’s exciting to see him in Style orange.”
Also signing on Tuesday were catcher Brian Schnider and closer Mariano Rivera.
“Getting Rivera is great as well,” stated Egge. “Having that presence in our bullpen, not only for the on-the-field benefits but for the leadership he can provide to our pitching staff is amazing. We were lucky to be able to lock him up.”
The final group of free agents has closed, but an almost eerie silence reigns as decisions about where those players will go are being made. With a large number of players signing and few slots to be had, a number of decisions were to be made by the teams throughout the day.
One team that didn’t have to sweat out the decision making process was the Clarksville Cubs. With only two catchers slots available and only leading on two catchers, the Cubs were able to announce the signings of Jason Kendall and A.J. Pieryznski early on Tuesday.
“We’re glad to have the roster complete and have these great guys behind the plate,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover. “Now we can really turn our attention to the minor league draft and then toward opening day.”
Numerous players were up in the air at press time, including Grady Sizemore, Jim Thome, Justin Verlander, and Rickie Weeks.
A day after dealing with his most familiar trading partner, Charles Rector and the Atkins Alley Cats mixed it up a little, dealing outfielder Chone Figgins and Trevor Hoffman for Mark Redman of the Edwardsville Armada.
“Mix it up a little, that’s my motto,” said Rector about the deal. “Redman should be a strong part of our winning rotation. Hated to see those guys go, but them’s the breaks.”
The Armada seem to be stocking up on closers, having previously dealt for Chad Cordero earlier in the week.
“Having a strong presence at the end of games is going to be big for us,” said Armada owner David Reed. “We think this way we can win some close games late and maybe more than our share of one-run ballgames.”
Late Edit: After consultation with the rules, the commissioner was forced to deem the above trade illegal. However, the teams modified the deal, with the Armada sending cash with Redman for Hoffman and Raul Ibanez.
It’s become a tradition of sorts in the United Rotisserie League. The Atkins Alley Cats put out the trade light and Wendy’s Peffercorns answer the call.
The teams hooked up for their league-leading seventh trade on Thursday night, with the Cats sending out young pitcher Chad Billingsley and financial considerations for outfielder Andre Ethier.
“I am extremely pumped to have Ethier join the Cats,” said owner Charles Rector. “Andre is going to be a star in this league for a long time to come and I’m glad we’ll be the beneficiaries. While we were looking forward to having Billingsley in our rotation, it was a deal we just couldn’t pass up.”
Wendy’s owner Mike Salony was asked about the frequency of the trades with the Cats.
“I’m not sure what it is. Charles and I seem to have trading philosophies that mesh well, we are both very available for communications and thoughts, so the trades seem to have come out of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we aren’t announcing a deal again next week as well.”
With only one group remaining after Thursday’s signings, more and more rosters are filling up. Some of them for the second time.
With Thursday’s signings of DH Travis Hafner, outfielder Matt Holliday and first baseman Paul Konerko, the Edwardsville Armada again have 35 men on their roster. Also filling their slots were Wendy’s Peffercorns, who signed pitcher Rich Harden.
“To be able to have a signing day like today this late in the game is unbelieveable,” said Armada owner David Reed. “This is why we made the trades to free up room in the first place. Having hitters of this caliber on our squad will be a huge asset as we try to take the first URL championship.”
Wendy’s owner Mike Salony released a statement, in which he was quoted as saying, “Finishing our staff with a quality guy like Harden is about all you can hope for when you are in this business. It’s great to see him in the green of the Peffercorns.”
Also having a good signing day on Thursday were the Arkansas Cardinals. The Cardinals, who had been quiet the last couple of weeks, landed third baseman Scott Rolen, second baseman Placido Polanco and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.
Finishing the signings were the Clarksville Cubs, who were very happy to get shortstop David Eckstein.
“Great price, great player. Can’t beat that,” said Cubs owner Jason Hoover.
Teams continue to jockey for position for the few remaining free agents, as another trade was pulled in advance of Thursday’s penultimate group closing.
On Wednesday, the Edwardsville Armada sent first baseman Sean Casey to the Brewville Style for closer Chad Cordero and financial considerations. This marked Cordero’s second deal, having been part of the first-ever URL deal back in November.
“We’ve really been focused on getting another closer,” said Armada owner David Reed. “Getting one of the quality of Cordero has made 2007 get off to a great start.”
The Style were glad to get a player like Casey into the fold.
“We saw what he did in the World Series, and we don’t have any reason to believe he can’t produce at a similar level throughout the year,” stated Style owner Steve Egge.
If a group of free agents is about to be resolved, you can almost set your watch by an Atkins Alley Cats trade preceding it.
On Sunday, the Cats sent third baseman Chad Tracy back to Wendy’s Peffercorns, along with outfielder Dave Roberts and financial considerations, for outfielder Chone Figgins. Tracy, who originally signed with the Peffercorns, was traded to Atkins back in November.
“Tracy really wanted to go back and get a crack at helping out the Peffercorns,” said Atkins owner Charles Rector. “We were able to give him that chance while fulfilling some objectives of our own.”
One of those objectives was to free roster slots for some available talent. That paid off when the free agents began signing on Monday, as the Alley Cats landed some of the big names of the group.
Putting on the Cat sky blue on Monday were first baseman Ryan Howard, outfielder Jason Bay, and closer Trevor Hoffman.
“Getting these guys in is going to be a wonderful experience for our fans,” said Rector. “It shows that we are serious about landing quality players and providing a winning environment.”
Also signing on Monday was Carlos Lee (with Wendy’s Peffercorns) and Andy Pettitte (with Edwardsville Armada).