Mets get Alomar from Tribe

Dec. 11, 2001 at 12:55 PM
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BOSTON, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The New York Mets, looking to jump start one of the worst offenses in baseball, Tuesday pulled off the biggest deal of the winter meetings, acquiring All-Star second baseman Roberto Alomar from the Cleveland Indians in an eight-player deal.

The Mets received Alomar, first baseman Danny Peoples and Class AAA lefthander Mike Bacsik in exchange for outfielders Matt Lawton and Alex Escobar, righthanded pitcher Jerrod Riggan and two players to be named. One of the players to be named is expected to be former first-round pick lefthander Billy Traber.

In Alomar, the Mets get one of the best all-around players in the game. The 33-year-old second baseman is coming off a season in which he batted .336 with 20 homers, 100 RBI, scored 100 runs, stole 30 bases and finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player voting.

"It is not often that you get a chance to acquire a 12-time All-Star," said Mets General Manager Steve Phillips. "We came to these meetings trying to improve our offense and we came away with one of the top players in the game."

"As difficult as it is to trade a Hall of Fame-caliber player like Roberto Alomar, we feel the players we have received back from the Mets will help the Cleveland Indians sustain a championship-caliber team for this season and for years to come," Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said.

Alomar admitted he was not expecting to be traded.

"In the beginning I was kind of surprised," he said. "I didn't know anything was going to happen. I loved Cleveland. I thought I did a great job there. On the other hand, I am going to a winning team. ... I woke up this morning and didn't know what to say."

Cleveland accomplished two tasks with the trade. The Indians slashed nearly $2 million off their payroll with the move and in one deal retooled an outfield that is almost certain to be without 2001 starters Kenny Lofton, Juan Gonzalez and Marty Cordova.

The deal was the first major move for Shapiro, who took over for John Hart, one of the most respected executives in the league and a general manager that built a team that captured six division titles in the last seven years.

Lawton was an All-Star just two seasons ago with Minnesota and fills Cleveland's need for a leadoff hitter. He was a bit of disappointment with New York, which acquired him at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins.

"Matt Lawton is a former American League All-Star who is a high-energy, established everyday player who will be our starting right fielder when the season opens in April," Shapiro said.

"I have always liked him as a hitter and as a player," Indians Manager Charlie Manuel said. "It hurt Minnesota when he left. It fills a hole in our lineup."

In Escobar, the Indians get New York's best position prospect, a 23-year-old multi-dimensional hitter that struggled at the major league level in 2001. Escobar's ability to play any of the three outfield positions, particularly center field, could earn him a full-time spot on the major league roster.

Riggan was 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 35 games last season for the Mets and was once thought of as the Mets' closer of the future. He should battle for a role in a deep Cleveland bullpen.

"Jerrod Riggan has a power arm that will fit into the back part of our bullpen while Alex Escobar is a five-tool player that has the potential to be an impact player at the big league level for years to come," Manuel said.

"We have Milton Bradley in center field, Brady Anderson in left and Matt Lawton in right. We have become very strong in the outfield."

But the unquestioned key to the deal is Alomar, possibly the greatest second baseman of all time. The ultimate No. 3 hitter in a lineup, Alomar could bat leadoff for the Mets, a role he filled earlier in his career.

However, the Mets, who reportedly are under some financial constraints, assume a great risk with Alomar, whose contract has one year remaining plus a club option for 2003. Alomar, a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner, does give New York possibly baseball's best defensive infield and teams with fellow Gold Glove winner Rey Ordonez to form one of the greatest defensive double play combinations of all time.

Fifth on the all-time list with 2,389 hits, Alomar is a career .306 hitter with 1,341 runs scored, 444 doubles, 190 home runs, 1,081 RBI and 446 stolen bases in 14 seasons. He has been voted to 11 straight All-Star Games and appeared in 12 in a row.

"We are very, very happy with this deal," Phillips said. "Obviously it is a very exciting day for the New York Mets. To get a guy like Alomar we thought we had to make a move like this. It was something we thought that was worth the price."

Alomar expressed no reservations about playing in New York.

"You have to set your mind to playing in New York," he said. "As long as I play hard and do my best we can go to the playoffs."

The trade of Lawton, who hit just .246 with three homers and 13 RBI in 48 games for New York, and Escobar, who batted only .200 in 50 at-bats, leaves New York with a gaping hole in its outfield. Jay Payton is the likely center fielder with David Justice -- acquired Friday from the New York Yankees -- possibly handling right or left field.

Peoples, who hit .222 with 17 homers and 48 RBI in 370 at-bats at Class AAA Buffalo, could bolster a weak Mets bench while Bacsik was the Indians minor league pitcher of the year. The 24-year-old starter was 12-5 with a 3.26 ERA in 21 appearances for Buffalo.

The eight-player deal is the largest by the Mets since an eight-player swap with the Boston Red Sox in November 1985.

"With this deal we have improved our offense and defense, we gave up a lot of talent in this deal but for us we needed to make it," Phillips said.

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