Reds swap Kearns to Nats for Clayton, pitchers

Updated: July 14, 2006, 12:05 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Worried their rickety bullpen was dragging them out of playoff contention, the Cincinnati Reds swung an eight-player trade with the Washington Nationals on Thursday, getting relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray but giving up two everyday players.

Keith Law's take
Keith Law
Do you think Jim Bowden took a little pleasure in thoroughly robbing the organization that fired him in 2003? If not, perhaps he should, because he just pushed the Reds to the back of the NL playoff queue, and in the process picked up three players who entered the Reds' organization while he was their GM.

• For more of Keith Law's analysis, Click here. Insider

Tim Kurkjian's takeInsider

• Nats GM Jim Bowden

The Reds parted with right fielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez, hoping to shore up one of the majors' worst bullpens.

"We paid a steep price," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "I'm sure this will be a controversial trade. I know a lot of people will be leaving nasty messages on my voicemail, and I'll have some who think it's great."

Besides the right-handed Majewski and lefty Bray, the Reds acquired shortstop Royce Clayton, infielder Brendan Harris and pitching prospect Daryl Thompson. The 36-year-old Clayton, will take over at shortstop for Lopez, who made his first All-Star team last year.

Cincinnati returned from the All-Star break trailing St. Louis by four games in the NL Central. The Reds are also in the middle of the wild-card race.

The Reds also gave up reliever Ryan Wagner, a first-round draft pick in 2003. Nationals general manager Jim Bowden acquired all three players when he ran the Reds.

"Philosophically, we believe that when you have a chance to trade a middle reliever for an everyday player, that's helpful," Bowden said. "Over the long run, if you look at a player for the next five to seven years, pitchers are more of a risk to injuries than everyday players."

Outgoing Nationals president Tony Tavares, incoming president Stan Kasten and the new ownership group approved the deal.

Bowden didn't rule out more moves by the Nationals, who are in last place in the NL East.

"Do these deals turn this team around? Of course not," Bowden said. "But it heads us in the right direction."

The deal also signals a new day in Cincinnati, which has traded away players for prospects and moved cautiously since Bowden was fired during the 2003 season. New owner Bob Castellini took over in January and promised to be aggressive.

The Reds have had five consecutive losing seasons, their deepest slump in 50 years. Piece by piece, Krivsky has overhauled the roster since being hired in February.

Most of the moves have worked. The Reds took over first place in the NL Central on May 8, making them one of the league's biggest surprises.

A 1-8 slide before the All-Star break left them foundering at 45-44, and underscored the need to do something about the bullpen.

A week ago, the Reds sent a minor leaguer to Seattle for Eddie Guardado, a former All-Star closer who moves back into the role in Cincinnati. Krivsky and Bowden first discussed their deal last Friday, and it quickly grew into the eight-player package.

"I personally love it," Reds utility player Ryan Freel said. "I'm not knocking Kearns and Lopez, but we all knew that most of the problem has been with the bullpen."

Kearns, one of the team's building blocks during Bowden's 11-year run in Cincinnati, was soaking in a whirlpool Thursday when he got called into the manager's office for a private meeting.

"These guys, since the first day they were here, they're not afraid to make a move," Kearns said. "So we'll see how it works.

"I'm not surprised something was done because things are going in the right direction here."

The 26-year-old Majewski was 3-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 46 games. He led the Nationals with 79 appearances last season and had a 2.93.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press