Brewers obtain Counsell, Spivey, Overbay
PHOENIX -- Right after trading off a power pitcher, the Arizona Diamondbacks acquired a power hitter who ranks among the best in the game.
In addition to Sexson, Arizona received left-hander Shane Nance and a player to be named.
Just because Richie Sexson has a new uniform for 2004, don't expect the slugging first baseman to be a new fantasy player. Sexson topped 40 home runs, 120 RBI and 150 strikeouts in two of the past three seasons, and there's little to suggest moving to Arizona will inhibit or enhance his chances of doing so again. Bank One Ballpark produced slightly fewer runs than Miller Park last season, while the Diamondbacks and Brewers produced almost identical runs and on-base percentages.
So can Sexson make the same leap as Jason Giambi, who turned 28 before drawing 100 walks or hitting .300 in a season? Sexson's improving walk totals suggest it's possible, but a second-round pick is a steep price to pay for another .270 season.
The Brewers picked up a lot of bodies, but not a lot of fantasy potential. Lyle Overbay should win the job at first base, but he doesn't have much power. Junior Spivey and Craig Counsell's best assets are infield eligibility, although Spivey may move to the outfield if super prospect Rickie Weeks is ready at second base. All are middle-round picks at best in NL-only fantasy leagues. The sleeper of the bunch for 2004 is lefty Chris Capuano, who went 9-5 with a 3.34 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and 2-4 with a 4.64 ERA for Arizona in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He could be a left-handed Brian Lawrence.
"I'm pretty excited," Sexson said in a conference call. "I enjoyed my time in Milwaukee, but as a player, we obviously play to win, and it got tough in Milwaukee."
De La Rosa was one of four players sent to Arizona for Schilling, and could not be traded until the Schilling deal was finalized.
"He was the Red Sox's best pitching prospect," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He's ahead of our young pitchers. We were reluctant to do the deal unless he was in the deal."
The Diamondbacks had long coveted the 6-foot, 7-inch Milwaukee first baseman as the right-handed power hitter the lineup lacked.
"This is an exciting player," Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "This is a player who turns a game around with an at-bat."
Sexson tied Barry Bonds for third in the majors with 45 home runs last season, and had 124 RBIs. Arizona had no player with more than 26 home runs last year.
Sexson, who played in every inning of every game last season, has a career .378 average at Bank One Ballpark with six home runs and 16 RBIs.
He has a .273 average with 191 home runs in six major league seasons with Cleveland and Milwaukee.
Jerry Colangelo, the Diamondbacks' managing general partner, said that despite Schilling's departure, he expects the team to contend in the NL West.
"We in no way are giving up an inch in our opinion regarding our competitiveness in going forward," he said. "This is a team that we feel can win."
Sexson, 28, will make $8.6 million next year, the final season of his contract. Colangelo said that despite the franchise's financial constraints, the Diamondbacks don't consider this just a one-season acquisition.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there, but the bottom line is we have the ability to sign him," Colangelo said. "We're not looking at this as a one-year deal."
Sexson said he hadn't talked about anything beyond this season, even with his agent.
"I really don't know what the future holds for me," he said. "Obviously, Arizona is sure someplace I would love to stay for a long time."
He was the Brewers' most popular player, but with the franchise looking to cut its already meager payroll to about $30 million next season, his salary was too high.
Melvin said his team couldn't risk losing Sexson without anything in return, or waiting so long that his trade value would diminish greatly.
"We were faced with the reality of losing Richie Sexson and probably getting nothing in return except for a few draft choices," Melvin said.
Despite its financial situation, Milwaukee is taking on some significant salaries with the deal. Counsell will earn $3.15 million next year and Spivey $2,367,500.
Counsell is 33, but none of the other players acquired by the Brewers in the deal is older than 28.
Counsell, a scrappy utility player and the MVP in the 2001 NL championship series, has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons. He is from the Milwaukee area and still lives there in the offseason. Counsell has two World Series rings, with Arizona in 2001 and Florida in 1997.
Spivey, selected by his manager Bob Brenly for the 2002 All-Star game, was sidelined by an ankle injury part of last season and never could regain his starting job from rookie Matt Kata.
Overbay, a left-handed hitter, was given the first-base job by the Diamondbacks as a rookie at the start of last season after a rapid rise through the minor league system. But he struggled and was sent back to Triple-A Tucson to work on his swing.
Moeller hit .268 last season but fell out of favor for unexplained reasons and played little the last few months.
De La Rosa, 22, has a fastball reaches 94 mph. He was 6-3 with a 2.80 for Double-A Portland and 1-2 with a 3.75 ERA for Triple-A Pawtucket last season.
Capuano came back from reconstructive "Tommy John" elbow surgery in 2002 and made his major league debut, going 2-4 with a 4.64 ERA in nine games, five as a starter.
"Personally, I think that we're a better baseball team now because of the talent that we got in return," Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said.
Nance was 0-2 with a 4.21 ERA in 26 relief appearances for Milwaukee.
The Diamondbacks' payroll, about $94 million last season, is at $77.5 million and will stay around $80 million for the coming season, Colangelo said. Arizona's overall payroll rose by about $3 million with the Sexson trade, he said.
The team cleared $12 million -- and up to $14 million considering incentives -- in salary for next season by trading Schilling.
The team also is believed to be shopping closer Matt Mantei.
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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