06/27/2004 10:07 PM ET
Mariners trade pitching for hitting
Bavasi hoping Garcia deal improves a struggling lineup
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The Mariners took the first step toward improving the American League's least productive offense Sunday afternoon when they traded right-handed pitcher Freddy Garcia and switch-hitting catcher Ben Davis to the White Sox for catcher Miguel Olivo and two minor league players.
|Freddy Garcia came to the Mariners from Houston in 1998 in the Randy Johnson deal. (Ted S. Warren)
Besides getting 23-year-old outfielder Jeremy Reed, the White Sox's second-round draft choice in 2002, and shortstop Mike Morse, who will be assigned to Double-A San Antonio (Texas League), the Mariners can put the $30 million or so it would have taken to re-sign Garcia toward at least one productive hitter prior to the 2005 season.
The Mariners are last in the American League in batting average (.256), runs (295), total bases (964), home runs (54) and RBIs (277).
"The reputation of this organization is well-established," general manager Bill Bavasi said. "It's pitching-rich and the brunt of our reliance is going to be on the young pitching here. The money we spend primarily will be spent on position players."
Bavasi and Garcia met with the media after the Mariners' 5-1 loss to the Padres at Safeco Field.
"I don't know what to say," Garcia said. "I have been here for six years and I'm really sad right now. I have a lot of good memories here. It's a good city, good people, good teams. I like it here and if I have a chance to come back, I will."
As of Sunday night, the Mariners hadn't made a decision on who would replace Garcia in the rotation. He was scheduled to start Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Texas Rangers at Safeco Field.
Among the candidates are left-handers Matt Thornton, who tossed four innings of shutout relief in Sunday's game, and Travis Blackley of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. The Jamie Moyer-like Blackley has a 7-2 record and 2.63 ERA. He recently was named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team.
Meanwhile, none of the three players acquired from the White Sox are expected to have an immediate impact on a Mariners team that has spent virtually the entire season in last place in the AL West after four consecutive seasons of 93-plus victories.
"He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year and we feel like we're bringing in some young guys we need. A young catcher, our guys here right now are doing a good job for us, so he's a younger kid for down the road. We feel like we need to get a little bit younger," Melvin said.
Jeremy Reed, OF
Reed burst on the scene in just his first full season of pro ball in 2003. He led the minors with a .373 average and .453 OBP between high-A and Double-A, hitting .409 after a promotion to Birmingham. The second-round pick in the 2002 draft was rated No. 16 on MLB.com's Top 50 prospects list.
Reed won't measure near the top of the charts in any one tool. But his baseball instincts help carry his average tools across the board into an above-average package. With continued development, Reed could become a Jim Edmonds-type who makes the most of his ability.
He started the 2004 season, his first in Triple-A in just his second full season, a little slowly, at least from the power perspective. He didn't homer in April and drove in just seven runs, perhaps because he came back from a wrist problem at the end of last year a little too soon. He now has eight homers, 14 doubles for a .420 slugging percentage and has 37 RBIs. Reed only hit a combined 11 homers last year, but had 35 doubles and drove in 95 runs.
Mike Morse, SS
Morse, a third-round draft pick back in 2000 out of Florida as a high schooler, had moved slowly and steadily up the White Sox organizational ladder. At 6-foot-4, the Sox always believed Morse had power potential and he began to show it last year when he hit 10 homers for Winston-Salem, which won the Carolina League championship.
Just 22, Morse moved up to Double-A Binghamton this year and had been having a breakout year before the trade. In 54 games, Morse was hitting .287 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs. After homering five times each in the opening two months, Morse cooled off some with just one home run in June. Still, his .536 slugging percentage, fourth in the Southern League, is nothing to sneeze at from a shortstop.
Speaking of short, Morse has done increasingly well there defensively. It was thought because of his size he might outgrow the position, but he's played nothing else this season, committing 11 errors thus far. He did play some third base in the South Atlantic League back in 2002, so a shift there down the line wouldn't be completely out of the blue, though he still has the arm and range to play short.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Olivo will join the Mariners and serve as a backup to Dan Wilson, who is in the final year of a two-year contract. Exactly how this affects 41-year-old Pat Borders wasn't determined as of Sunday night.
"Olivo is a Major League catcher," Bavasi said. "While we are happy with our current catching situation at catcher, we needed to plan for the future at that position. He runs good, has some pop in his bat and shuts down a running game."
The 25-year-old catcher, acquired from the Athletics after the 2000 season, has been sharing the White Sox catching duties with Sandy Alomar Jr. Olivo is batting .270 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 45 games.
Reed, 23, was the 2003 Topps Minor League Player of the Year after batting .373 with 11 home runs, 95 RBIs and 45 steals at Single-A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. He is batting .273 with 14 doubles, eight home runs and 36 RBI with Triple-A Charlotte.
When asked how close Reed is to getting to the big leagues, Bavasi said, "Real close. Sometime next year is what we would expect.
"Reed is going to hit," the GM added. "He is one of those guys who doesn't have power numbers at minor league levels. But this guy hits."
The 22-year-old Morse is farther away, but has some good numbers at Birmingham -- .287 batting average with nine doubles, 11 home runs and 38 RBIs.
"Morse is more of a project," Bavasi said. "He's a good-sized (6-4, 220) shortstop who some project as a third baseman. We're not going to do that right away. Our goal is to get a big, strong shortstop and if he moves off the position, fine.
"But (keeping him at shortstop) is our approach right now. He's a guy who hits for power."
Bavasi said Morse reminds him of a young Tim Salmon, the Angels outfielder.
"He strikes out a little bit, but when he's selective, his numbers go way up."
The Mariners are certain they didn't strike out in making this trade.
"A deal like this is difficult for two reasons," Bavasi said. "Number one, it is tough to put together a trade mechanically, but what makes it real tough is trading a good guy and a good pitcher. Freddy came in to Spring Training very focused and has maintained his focus under a tough situation. There have been a lot of rumors."
There were reports that he would be dealt to the Yankees or Mets and the White Sox, who are managed by Ozzie Guillen, one of Garcia's closest friends.
Bavasi said a decision was made prior to camp to have Garcia play out the 2004 season for $6.875 million and, "ride him to the postseason or move him for prospects or sign him at the end of the season."
But the Mariners head into the final week of June a distant 12 1/2 games out of first place. The White Sox were one of "four or five" clubs interested in obtaining Garcia's services for the second half of the season.
And when White Sox GM Kenny Williams "stepped up" and offered Reed in the deal late Sunday afternoon, the trade was consummated.
"We made, what we think, is a good deal for us," Bavasi said.
The trade was announced in the eighth inning of Sunday's game and there was a smattering of boos from the near-capacity crowd.
"These are not easy deals to make," Bavasi said. "When you move a good player, it's hard to put a positive spin on it. [But] it's going to have to be looked at with the future in mind. Most of what you [media] do is hindsight. Everything we do is foresight.
"If I was a fan knowing this guy has done a great job, and see him go with no knowledge of what you're getting back, is tough. I might be one of those if I wasn't working for the club."
He said the team has to, "Operate in the present but look at the future and be cognizant where wholes are starting to appear. Otherwise, they sneak up on you pretty quick."
And when that happens, changes are made.
After all, one of the most unpopular trades in franchise history -- the Randy Johnson trade to Houston on July 31, 1998 -- turned out OK after all. Back then, no one ever had heard of Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen or John Halama.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.