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.
A National League scout offered the following assessment of the three-player trade between the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres:
On Mark Kotsay: "Maybe Billy (Beane) thinks Kotsay is the kind of guy you put in their system, and he'll get better. In college he was a guy who could work counts and really got the most out of his tools. He knows how to play. He's just an overall solid guy.''
On Terrence Long: "He's a temperamental guy, but if you put him in there every day and he knows he's going to play, you may get some more out of him, because he does have some power. He's kind of an in-between guy. You're not sure he's going to give you enough power to really fit on a corner like you want. And he's only about an average runner, so you're not sure he can play center field like you want.''
On Ramon Hernandez: "I've always liked Hernandez. I've always thought he was a pretty productive guy. He kind of takes what he's given at the plate. He'll hit some home runs and he's a solid receiver. I'm just not sure what Oakland does now at catcher. It seems like there are guys who'll be out on the market. But Hernandez might be kind of hard to replace for the dollars Oakland will want to spend.'' -- Jerry Crasnick
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."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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