© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
12/11/08 3:37 AM EST
Three-team blockbuster nets Mets Putz
Mariners and Indians involved in 12-player Meetings deal
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- Omar Minaya described the three-team, 12-player behemoth best. In discussing the Sultan of Swap that took place among his Mets and the Mariners and Indians, Minaya proudly proclaimed, "The best thing you can say about this trade is it's an old-fashioned trade." Indeed, it is. And the crux of this blockbuster was Minaya and the Mets acquiring J.J. Putz from the Mariners to serve as the setup man to new closer Francisco Rodriguez.
In addition to Putz, the Mets are receiving Reed, who has hit .257 with 11 homers and 98 RBIs over 336 games in five seasons in Seattle and is considered a fourth outfielder, and Green, who is 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 160 relief appearances over the last three seasons. Green went 4-5 with a save and a 4.67 ERA in 72 appearances last season. Mariners Zduriencik's first trade is a whopper, and, with seven players brought into the fold, it obviously addresses multiple areas. For one, the M's have long shown an interest in Gutierrez, who could potentially become an everyday option in the outfield. Gutierrez had been in the Indians' system since he was acquired in the 2004 trade that sent Milton Bradley to the Dodgers. The 25-year-old has put up a .258 average with 22 homers and 85 RBIs over the last four seasons and has proven to be a valuable defender. He became the Indians' starting right fielder in the second half of 2007 and helped spark the Tribe to a division title, but his struggles at the plate in '08 put him in more of a reserve role. He is a defensive whiz who can play all three positions. Heilman was drafted as a starter and converted into a reliever. Heilman had a chance to make the rotation in 2006 after a lights-out Spring Training, but lost out to Brian Bannister. He has reportedly been unhappy with the organization ever since and approached the team last month saying he wanted to be a starter, either for the Mets or for someone else. The 30-year-old Heilman went 3-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 78 relief appearances last year. Zduriencik said it's possible Heilman will be moved to the rotation, though that's not for sure. Chavez is a fourth outfielder and strong defender. The Mets used him mainly in left field, though he can play all three spots. He has compiled a .270 average with 17 homers and 177 RBIs over eight seasons with the Royals, Expos, Nationals, Phillies and Mets. And the acquisition of four Minor Leaguers gives some depth to a Mariners team in the midst of transition. "What our goals were in Seattle were to try to upgrade the talent level to try to help our ballclub immediately and long-term," Zduriencik said. "And in doing this, with acquiring this many players, we think that we've taken a step in that direction." Indians: The Indians, who are on the verge of signing Kerry Wood to a two-year contract, added another arm to their bullpen and also addressed a glaring dearth of upper-level, middle-infield talent. The 24-year-old Smith will be in the Tribe's big league bullpen as a situational right-hander. Smith, who uses a submarine delivery, has made 136 appearances with the Mets over the last two seasons, compiling a 9-5 record and 3.51 ERA. In 2008, he was 6-3 with a 3.55 ERA, striking out 52 batters and walking 31 in 63 1/3 innings over 82 appearances. Valbuena, 23, is a prospect who got his first call to the Majors in '08. He played in 18 games at second base and shortstop, batting .245 (12-for-49) with five doubles and one RBI. In four Minor League seasons, Valbuena, who bats left-handed, has compiled a .270 batting average with 39 homers, 203 RBIs, a .346 on-base percentage and 64 stolen bases. The Indians have a need in their big league infield, with the flexibility to shift shortstop Jhonny Peralta to third base and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to short. It's possible Valbuena could make the club as a left-handed-hitting complement to utility man Jamey Carroll, depending on how the rest of the offseason goes. To get these two pieces, the Indians dealt from a position of depth in the outfield. "We have very good depth in our outfield," Shapiro said, "and we've got to be creative in how we fill our needs." And it doesn't get much more creative than a three-team, 12-player trade. "Here we are in the year 2008 and talking about millions of dollars," Minaya said. "[But] this is how trades [used to be] done. It's just a pure, baseball trade."
Of course, that was far from the only element of this deal, which came together astonishingly fast Wednesday afternoon at the Bellagio, on the third day of the Winter Meetings. The Mets also received outfielder Jeremy Reed and right-hander Sean Green from Seattle. The Mariners received outfielder Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians and, from the Mets, right-hander Aaron Heilman, center fielder Endy Chavez and four Minor Leaguers -- first baseman Mike Carp, right-hander Maikel Cleto, left-hander Jason Vargas and center fielder Ezekiel Carrera. The Indians received right-hander Joe Smith from the Mets and infielder Luis Valbuena from the Mariners. How did it happen so fast? Well, Minaya inquired about Putz, and, when it became clear an easy trade could be made, newly appointed M's general manager Jack Zduriencik told Minaya he was interested in Gutierrez. Indians general manager Mark Shapiro and Minaya are good friends and know each other's needs on the trade front, so Minaya called Shapiro to get the wheels in motion. The Indians had long had an interest in Smith, and they also had knowledge of Seattle's system because of their talks with Zduriencik about Putz this offseason. Next thing the three men knew, they were all on the horn and sealing the particulars. "There were a lot of moving parts and everybody satisfied what they needed to get done," Shapiro said. "I hope we look back a year from now and see it worked out for everybody." Here's how it works from each club's perspective: The Mets: Having just satisfied their closer search with the signing of K-Rod to a three-year, $37 million deal, the Mets were looking to solve their setup situation. Putz is a marquee addition, given his ninth-inning pedigree. He took over the Mariners' closing duties in 2006 and saved 76 games between '06 and '07. But this past season, injuries limited him to 47 appearances. He went 6-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 15 saves. The trade dictates a demotion in duties for Putz. "It's not the ideal situation," he said, "but having the two of us at the back of the bullpen will be pretty strong." As for Minaya, between K-Rod and Putz, he hopes he's taken care of an obvious weakness from 2008. "All I kept hearing on the streets in New York, if you go get bagels in the morning, it was, 'Please, address the bullpen,'" Minaya said. "Well, to you, Mets fans, we've addressed the bullpen."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.