1stThe Yankees trade 3B prospect Mike Lowell, 1997’s Minor League Player of the Year, to the Marlins for minor league pitchers Ed Yarnell, Mark Johnson, and Todd Noel. Lowell became expendable after the Yankees signed Scott Brosius to a 3-year contract.
2nd The Reds acquire outfielders Greg Vaughn and Mark Sweeney from the Padres for OF Reggie Sanders, IF Damian Jackson and P Josh Harris.
3rd The Astros avoided arbitration with P Billy Wagner by signing him to a 3–year contract worth $10.5 million. Wagner set a major league record with 14.55 SO/9 innings pitched in 1998 (minimum: 50 IP. Meanwhile, Kerry Wood set the major league record with 12.58 SO/9 IP for pitchers who qualified for the ERA title.).
The Mets decline to offer a new contract to announcer Tim McCarver, a 16 year veteran behind the mike for New York. The outspoken McCarver will be replaced by Tom Seaver, who vows to be less critical of the home team. The Hall of Fame pitcher will also serve as a part–time coach for the team.
The Indians sign free agent Wil Cordero to a one year contract.
7th Veteran pitcher Dennis Martinez announces his retirement. He leaves with 3,999.2 innings pitched.
8th Boston OF Midre Cummings has his arbitration case heard by Elizabeth Neumeier. It is the first arbitration case in history to be decided by a female arbitrator. Since the arbitration rule went into effect in 1974, all 409 cases have been decided by men.
12th The Padres sign 37-year-old country singer Garth Brooks and invite him to spring training camp as a non–roster player.
15th The Cincinnati Reds announce that they are dropping their long-standing policy of no facial hair for players. The change is the result of a talk between owner Marge Schott and newly-acquired OF Greg Vaughn.
18th The U.S. Postal Service issues a Jackie Robinson stamp as part of their “Celebrate the Century” program. Robinson was selected to represent the 40’s, the 2nd ball player chosen. Babe Ruth, last May, represented the 1920s.
The Yankees end the trade rumors by acquiring Cy Young winner Roger Clemens from the Blue Jays in exchange for pitchers David Wells and Graeme Lloyd, and IF Homer Bush. David Cone comments, “There are going to be a lot of bars going out of business in New York.” The popular Wells, 39-14 for New York, is told of the trade when he reports to camp, and leaves in tears.
20th The Pirates sign free agent SS Pat Meares to a contract.
21st Florida rookie 3B Mike Lowell, acquired 3 weeks ago, undergoes surgery for testicular cancer after a small mass is found during a routine exam.
25th The Diamondbacks acquire second baseman Tony Womack from the Pirates in exchange for OF Paul Weichard and a player to be named.
28th Arizona minor league—and former major league—pitcher Ken Robinson is killed in a car crash. Teammate John Rosengren is arrested and charged with second–degree murder in the alcohol–related accident.