Does deal mean Pujols at first?

Updated: November 21, 2003, 7:07 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tino Martinez hopes a move home can spark his slumping bat.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded the 35-year-old first baseman to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Friday on minor league pitcher Evan Rust and a player to be named.

"I did not come here to retire and play out the rest of my career," Martinez said at Tropicana Field. "I came here to be a productive player for these guys, and I look forward to having a big year and making an impact on the young players on the team and also try to help this team get to the next level."

Born in Tampa, Martinez was a star at the University of Tampa before starting his major league career.

A power hitter with the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees, the two-time All-Star had averaged nearly 30 homers and 111 RBIs for seven seasons before joining the Cardinals.

He hit 21 homers with 75 RBIs in his first year at St. Louis and dipped to 15 homers and 69 RBIs this season. He hit .273, his career average.

Martinez is owed $7.5 million next season under the $21 million, three-year deal he agreed to with the Cardinals in December 2001, and his contract contains an $8 million option for 2005 with a $1 million buyout.

St. Louis will pay $7 million of the remaining $8.5 million Martinez is guaranteed, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

Martinez will be reunited with Devil Rays skipper Lou Piniella, who managed him in Seattle from 1993 through 1995.

"Our objective when the season ended was to add some talented, veteran players who have had success and know how to win and, at the same time, can provide some leadership for our young players," Piniella said. "Tino was a perfect candidate.

"He's the first step toward getting to where we want to this winter, and we're thrilled about it," he said.

Martinez will replace the slick-fielding Travis Lee at first base. The Devil Rays decided not to exercise their option on Lee, who hit .275 last year with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs.

Martinez, his wife Maria, and their three children, ages 7 to 11, live in Tampa, where Martinez helped lead Tampa Catholic High School to the Florida state title in 1982. At the University of Tampa, Martinez was a three-time Division II All-American.

With the Yankees, Martinez won four World Series championships.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the trade could lead to a position shift.

"Does this deal mean that Albert Pujols will be moved to first base? That's a possibility," La Russa said. "One of the things we are trying to do is improve our table-setters at the top of the lineup. Because first base is a position primarily reserved for run-producers, we feel that we have a better chance of finding a leadoff hitter to play the outfield rather than first base."

Rust, 25, was 1-3 with a 2.65 ERA with 11 saves in 30 relief appearances at Double-A Orlando and 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA and one save in 26 relief outings for Triple-A Durham.

"Our focus this offseason has been on reshaping our everyday lineup while also improving our pitching," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We feel that we have acquired a quality pitcher in Rust while this trade also creates flexibility for future moves aimed at obtaining our offseason goals."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press