Spivey expected to fill void for injured Vidro

Updated: June 10, 2005, 8:36 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Making clear they won't stand pat, the NL East-leading Washington Nationals acquired second baseman Junior Spivey from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for pitcher Tomo Ohka on Friday, and claimed right-hander Ryan Drese off waivers.

Fri, June 10
ESPN.com fantasy spin: Most fantasy owners expected Junior Spivey would be among the names moved at the trade deadline, but the Brewers moved quickly Friday, trading the second baseman to the Nationals in exchange for right-hander Tomo Ohka. Spivey's departure from Milwaukee now begs this question: Is the Rickie Weeks Era officially under way?

Weeks, the second player taken overall in the 2003 amateur draft, is batting .320, with nine triples, 12 home runs, 48 RBI (interesting stat: He's been hit by a pitch 14 times) and a 1.090 OPS in 55 games for Triple-A Nashville, far improved from the .259-8-42-.773 he had in Double A a year ago. He's a top prospect who could quickly become a top fantasy second baseman, and players with this kind of upside are always worth taking. Weeks should be promoted to take over the everyday job in the near future, making him worth the immediate addition. Even if he needs time to adapt to the major-league level, keep in mind the lack of depth at second base.

Spivey is a curious addition for the Nationals, who should get Jose Vidro back from an ankle injury around the All-Star break. Spivey's value doesn't change much -- he's an adequate NL-only second baseman or mixed league middle infielder -- but it's likely he'll become a part-timer once Vidro returns, unless he's moved again by July 31.

Ohka gets a fresh start in a new organization after a run-in with Nationals manager Frank Robinson, and he'll step right in for Wes Obermueller as the Brewers' fifth starter. Ohka's not a bad NL-only starter -- he has a 3.33 ERA and .224 batting average allowed in 10 games (nine starts) -- but the fact that he has 27 walks and 17 strikeouts demonstrates that he's hittable and best used when facing favorable matchups. Miller Park is actually a bit more hitter-friendly than RFK Stadium, so expect a slight decrease in overall value.

In Washington, Ryan Drese, who was just claimed off waivers, steps into Ohka's vacated rotation spot. Drese was hit hard in Texas after a solid 2004 season, but his 4.13 ERA, 1.313 WHIP and .270 batting average allowed in eight career interleague starts is an encouraging sign. Like Ohka, Drese could be a useful NL-only matchups option.

The trade for Spivey, a 2002 NL All-Star who fills a hole left by Jose Vidro's injury, hinged on the Nationals being able to replace Ohka. Drese was designated for assignment Wednesday by the Texas Rangers.

"Our feeling is that Drese could do what Ohka was doing, and we can solve our infield situation," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. "Every game's important. This is a race where we all see how close it is, and this makes us a better team today. It allows people to be in their right positions on the team."

Spivey took the train to Washington from Philadelphia, where the Brewers are playing, but he did not make it to RFK Stadium before the start of the Nationals' game against Seattle.

Washington entered Friday on a seven-game winning streak and 1 games ahead of Philadelphia in the tight NL East.

On a busy day, the Nationals also picked up right-handed reliever Jacobo Seuqea off waivers from the Orioles and optioned him to Double-A Harrisburg, while outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds announced his retirement after 13 major league seasons.

Drese is expected to join Washington on Saturday, when another roster move will be made -- probably sending career minor leaguer Rick Short back to Triple-A New Orleans.

Spivey is batting .236 this season. He has a .272 career average with 46 homers and 194 RBI in 429 games with Milwaukee and Arizona, but he's hit .308 against left-handers.

Vidro is expected out until the All-Star break with a partially torn tendon in his left ankle, and his backup, Jamey Carroll, missed the last two games with a sprained ankle.

Ohka, who asked for a trade last month, went 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA this season. He was fined after turning his back to Frank Robinson when the Nationals' manager went to the mound to pull Ohka in the fourth inning of his last start Saturday.

Ohka was slated to start Friday, and Sun-woo Kim was picked to fill in against Seattle. Kim and Drese will get a shot at the fifth slot in the rotation, Robinson said.

Drese, 29, was the Rangers' Opening Day starter this season, but he went 4-6 with a 6.46 ERA. Last season, he went 14-10 with a 4.20 ERA.

Drese and teammate Rod Barajas scuffled in the dugout during a game May 24. Bowden said the Nationals looked into that and were assured that Drese is "a good team guy."

"His velocity and stuff is very close, but he's getting hit hard because he's not hitting his spots," Bowden said. "We don't get Ryan Drese if he's not struggling."

Brewers manager Ned Yost said Ohka will start at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

"Ohka will be a great addition to our pitching staff," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said in Philadelphia. "We expect him to give us a proven starting pitcher to add to our rotation."

Ohka said he wished he had gotten a chance to pitch more innings, and he didn't like that he spent time in the bullpen.

"I didn't want to waste my time," Ohka said through a translator, Nationals strength coach Kazuhiko Tomooka.

Ohka is earning $2.75 million this season, Spivey $2,125,000, and Drese $400,000. Drese is under contract for $1.75 million in 2006, and there's a club option for $3 million in 2007.

"It wasn't about dollars," Bowden said, "but it does save us money on the bottom line."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press