A BIG MAC FROM SAN DIEGO
If the New York Mets were like most world champions, they would have spent the winter cashing in on their glory. We know now that they aren't like most champions. The team that won 116 games last season ended last week's winter meetings by pulling off the biggest trade of the off-season. The Mets gave third baseman Kevin Mitchell along with two of their best prospects, outfielders Shawn Abner and Stanley Jefferson, as well as two minor league pitchers, Kevin Brown and Kevin Armstrong, to the Padres for slugger Kevin McReynolds and lefthanded reliever Gene Walter. If nothing else, this almost certainly sets a record for most Kevins (four) moved in one trade.
McReynolds gives New York a righthanded hitter who had 26 homers and 96 RBIs in a weak Padre lineup. He'll play left and bat sixth behind Darryl Strawberry, and if the Mets were vulnerable to lefthanded pitching—how vulnerable can you be if you win 116 games?—they no longer are.
In the last three years the Mets have traded away a host of young talent: Floyd You-mans, Hubie Brooks, Eddie Williams, Calvin Schiraldi, Wes Gardner, et al. At first glance, these deals seem like the ones the Mets made after their first championship in '69, when they traded away Nolan Ryan, Ken Singleton, Tim Foli, Mike Jorgensen and Amos Otis for Rusty Staub, Jim Fregosi and Joe Foy. But this time around they've gotten a lot more. In the last three winters they have acquired an All-Star catcher ( Gary Carter), a premier lefthanded starter ( Bobby Ojeda) and now a young righthanded slugger.
The 19-year-old Abner just may be a future star. So may the speedy Jefferson. But in the Mets' eyes, they now have an outfield for years to come: McReynolds is 27, Strawberry is 24 and Lenny Dykstra is 23. The Mets resisted all requests for Randy Myers, their prized lefthander of the future—Minnesota offered Tom Brunansky for Myers and Mookie Wilson. The Mets were able to keep their five young starters, and now they have added Walter to an already deep bullpen, while Myers and International League Pitcher of the Year John Mitchell wait in the wings. They also didn't have to part with their infield prospects, shortstop-third baseman Gregg Jeffries, second baseman Keith Miller and shortstop Kevin Elster, so over the next five or so years the only players they will need to replace are Carter and Keith Hernandez. They can now deal Mookie Wilson for a third baseman or simply hand the job to Lou Piniella's cousin, David Magadan.
K.C. PULLS OFF A STEAL
The Royals also came out of the meetings a winner. All along they had assumed that they would have to trade one of their three best pitchers to get a productive hitter, but after turning down Lloyd Moseby, Manny Lee and Rance Mulliniks from the Blue Jays for Danny Jackson, Chili Davis from the Giants for Mark Gubizca and a three-way deal with Montreal and Minnesota involving Kent Hrbek, Jeff Reardon and either Jackson or Gubizca, they found the wandering Seattle Mariners. The M's said they were looking for pitching and a centerfielder, which was only partly true. They were looking for cheap help. So they told most teams it would take a major deal to land lefthanded reliever Matt Young, then gave him to the Dodgers for an error-prone minor league in-fielder named Mike Watters and lefthander Dennis Powell, who 1) has never won and 2) may have a bad arm. Then Seattle turned down the Jays' offer of Moseby and pitchers Duane Ward and Steve Davis for Danny Tartabull, a rare young righthanded slugger who knocked in 97 runs as a rookie despite a month's illness. The Mariners then handed Tartabull over to K.C. for diminutive breaking ball pitcher Scott Bank-head, utility outfielder Mike Kingery and 10-year minor league veteran pitcher Steve Shields. The Royals got an outstanding hitting prospect who can play a variety of positions, without giving up a quality pitcher. The Mariners? Well, between two trades and two minor league draft selections they got just what owner George Argyros wanted—seven players each making under $100,000 a year....
Young failed in half of his 26 save opportunities, but he and fellow UCLA alum Timothy Leary, acquired from Milwaukee for Greg Brock, give the depleted Dodger pitching staff two more hard throwers. Franklin Stubbs now moves to first base while the Dodgers search for a centerfielder and takers for Ken Landreaux and Bill Madlock....
Mike Easier tried to get the Yankees to extend his contract by demanding a trade. That so outraged George Steinbrenner that he demanded that Easier be traded—over the wishes of his baseball people. So Easier went to the Phillies for Charles Hudson, a pitcher with a strong arm whose fastball thus far only moves after meeting opposing bats. Strange, three years ago Easier was traded even-up for John Tudor, and all he has done since is average .292 with 19 homers and 81 RBIs. The Phillies will bat Easier between Mike Schmidt and Glenn Wilson against righthanders, and while it has been three years since he played the field, Philadelphia figures he can't be worse than Gary Matthews.
FOUR ON THE FLOOR
Perhaps the most significant announcement to come out of the meetings was from agent Dick Moss, who said that his free agent pitcher. Jack Morris, is cutting off negotiations with Detroit and will start talking with the Twins, Yankees, Phillies and Angels this week. Morris is from St. Paul, so Minnesota will get first crack at him. "I expect Jack will be signed within the week," asserted Moss. What Moss did was to confront the owners' attempt to blunt free agency. It was expected that Moss and agent Tom Reich would take some or all of their combined quartet of Morris, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Lance Parrish past the Jan. 8 deadline—after which the Tigers and Expos can't re-sign their players until May 1—but Moss has taken the offensive. "If we're going to find out if there's still free agency without going to court, this is the way to do it," says agent Randy Hendricks. "This is absolutely the right move by the right man with the right player." The owners were somewhat startled by Moss's move. When Philadelphia's Bill Giles was asked if he felt good about being in the favored four, he replied, "I don't know."