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Hernandez, Long land with Padres

OAKLAND, Calif. -- All-Star catcher Ramon Hernandez and
disgruntled outfielder Terrence Long were traded from the Oakland
Athletics to San Diego for outfielder Mark Kotsay on Wednesday,
more than a week after the teams tentatively agreed to the deal.

The teams thought they'd finish the trade Nov. 18, but the A's
wanted to see medical information on Kotsay, who had a herniated
disc in his lower back that hampered him last season.

Oakland asked for scans from an MRI exam on Kotsay, then
requested that he have a physical exam. The Padres in turn
requested physical exams on Hernandez and Long.

"The medical reports were probably as good as you can get,"
A's general manager Billy Beane said, relieved to have finally
completed the swap.

"Mark Kotsay is someone we've always admired from afar, going
back to his college days," Beane said. "We believe he's one of
the best center fielders in the game, and we like him as an
offensive player."

The deal provides more payroll flexibility over the next two
seasons for the A's, who began last season with the eighth-lowest
payroll in baseball and finished the year with a payroll of about
$50 million, not including bonuses.

There is some slight deferring in Kotsay's contract, but
"nothing significant," Beane said.

Kotsay understood why everything took so long.

"Acquiring me and my salary, they wanted to make sure I wasn't
going to miss significant time," Kotsay said. "Everybody would
agree that's a smart thing to do. ... It's a big relief. Obviously,
any time you're involved in a trade you want to find out one way or
the other."

Hernandez, who made his first All-Star game last summer, hit
.273 with 21 homers and 78 RBI. He also earned praise for his
defense, his work with the A's powerful pitching staff, and his
desire to play every day despite the rigors of his position.

"We're excited about adding two more pieces to our puzzle," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "In Ramon Hernandez and Terrence Long, we've acquired two solid players who will unquestionably be assets to the team, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint."

Hernandez will make $2.85 million next season in the third year
of a $9.5 million, four-year contract. He has been the A's starting
catcher for four seasons, and his departure leaves Oakland without
an experienced catcher on a roster that's also could lose former AL
MVP Miguel Tejada as a free agent.

Beane has a list of available catchers he likes. The new catcher
probably will share time with backup Adam Melhuse more so than
Hernandez did.

"I think it will be pretty difficult to find someone as durable
as Ramon," Beane said. "He was out there almost every day. I'm
not sure we're going to find a guy who catches 140 games a year
like Ramon did."

Long, a former 162-game starter for Oakland who struggled in a
platoon role last season, is due to make $3.7 million in 2004. He
struck out looking to end the A's loss in Game 5 of their division
series against the Boston Red Sox -- the fourth straight season
Oakland failed to get out of the first round.

The next day, Long criticized manager Ken Macha for not paying
enough attention to him, claiming the manager didn't shake hands
with him in the locker room after the loss. Long was so fed up that
he didn't play more last season, he said he was considering asking
for a trade if the A's couldn't guarantee him a greater role for
2004.

"That's just a blip on the screen, I wouldn't say that's what
motivated this," Beane said. "I'm not in position, it's not my
role here, to emotionally react. It really meant nothing."

Kotsay has struggled through many injuries during his six major
league seasons with Florida and San Diego, but he has been a
consistent hitter with a high on-base percentage when healthy. The
A's now have a wealth of center fielders following last Tuesday's
acquisition of Bobby Kielty from Toronto for left-hander Ted Lilly.

With Kotsay and Kielty, Beane believes Oakland has upgraded its
outfield both offensively and defensively. With these acquisitions,
it is unlikely the A's will re-sign outfielder Jose Guillen.

The A's owe Kotsay $6.5 million in each of the next three years,
including the automatic $1 million annual raise he received because
he was traded. Hernandez is due $4.1 million in 2005, and Long will
make $3.4 million next year and $4.7 million in 2005.

In addition, Kotsay has the right to terminate his contract
after any season and file for free agency, though he doesn't expect
he will need to do that.

"It is encouraging going to a ballclub that's been in the
playoffs," he said. "This will be my first opportunity to play
for a contending team."