Reds trade Casey to Pirates for left-hander Williams
"Sean Casey has been an asset to this organization the last eight years, but if we're going to improve and have a chance in our division, it's going to be about pitching," Reds general manager Dan O'Brien said.
Casey, a three-time All-Star and career .305 hitter who is among the most popular players on the Reds, batted .312 last year with nine homers and 58 RBI. A year earlier, he matched his career high of 99 RBI and hit 24 homers, one shy of his best.
The 31-year-old Casey was acquired by Cincinnati from Cleveland in March 1998 and has spent his entire major-league career with the Reds except for six games with the Indians in 1997. He is owed $8.5 million in the final year of his contract, and the Reds will send the Pirates $1 million to cover a portion of Casey's salary.
"We've been looking for a first baseman, and it seemed to be a good fit," Pirates general manager David Littlefield said. "He's been a productive player, and he will fit in well with our lineup."
The deal had been tentatively agreed to Tuesday, subject to physicals.
Having grown up in suburban Pittsburgh, Casey hit the first home run at PNC Park, an 8-2 Cincinnati win in April 2001. He went 4-for-4 with a two-run homer, two-run double and five RBI in that game. He has 10 homers and 52 RBI in 99 career games against Pittsburgh.
"He's a local guy. There's a nice twist to that, too," Littlefield said. "He's a strong leader and a high character guy, and will be a good fit in our clubhouse with [manager] Jim Tracy."
Coincidentally, Casey's season ended because of a concussion that occurred in a Sept. 16 game in PNC Park. As third baseman Edwin Encarnacion's throw pulled Casey off the bag at first, Humberto Cota's left elbow accidentally struck Casey in the face. Casey lay motionless for about 10 minutes before being taken off the field on a stretcher.
First base was a problem area as the Pirates lost 95 games and general manager Dave Littlefield called it his chief priority before the winter meetings began. Daryle Ward (.260, 12 homers, 63 RBI) faded after a promising start, prompting the recall of 270-pound prospect Brad Eldred, who had 12 homers in 190 at-bats but struck out 77 times. He is expected to start the 2006 season in the minors.
Williams was 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA in 25 starts this year after not being assured of a spot in the rotation until the final week of spring training. He was drafted by the Pirates in 1998 and has a 17-26 record and 4.41 ERA in four major-league seasons, missing more than half of the 2002 season for shoulder surgery before spending the entire 2003 season in the minors.
"In our minds, he has the necessary profile to pitch in our ballpark," O'Brien said. "He's delighted to come to a team like ours that can score a lot of runs. He feels it's an opportunity for him to take a step forward in his career."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is especially high on Williams, calling him one of the NL's best left-handed starters last season even though the 26-year-old has only 17 career victories.
Cincinnati also desperately needs pitching -- the Reds were 15th among the 16 NL teams last season with a 5.19 ERA, ahead of only the Colorado Rockies (5.54).
Williams was considered expendable by the Pirates because of their surplus of left-handers. They expect to start next season with four left-hander starters: 2005 rookies Zach Duke (8-2, 1.81 ERA) and Paul Maholm (3-1, 2.18 ERA), plus 2005 Opening Day starter Oliver Perez (7-5, 5.85 ERA) and veteran Mark Redman (5-15, 4.90). Also, left-hander Sean Burnett, a former first-round draft pick who won five in a row shortly after being called up in 2004, figures to return from elbow surgery early next season.
Casey, known as "The Mayor" in Cincinnati because of his outgoing personality and work in the community, had his jersey number retired by Upper St. Clair High School in suburban Pittsburgh several years ago. Williams' number was retired by the Pirates' Class A Williamsport farm club.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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