Giants trade Mitchell to Mariners for pitching

December 12, 1991|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Correspondent

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The San Francisco Giants apparently ran out of patience with power-hitting outfielder Kevin Mitchell, who was traded along with left-hander Mike Remlinger to the Seattle Mariners early yesterday for pitchers Bill Swift, Mike Jackson and Dave Burba.

The morning deal was the first in a series of trades consummated on the final full day of baseball's winter meetings at the Fontainebleau Resort.

Mitchell, 29, averaged 36 home runs the past three seasons and is considered one of the most dangerous hitters in the game, but his relationship with the Giants steadily deteriorated after he became an instant superstar with a major-league-leading 47 home runs in 1989.

Club officials presented the trade as a bold attempt to solidify a pitching staff that tied for last in the league in combined ERA last year,but the Giants have to be happy to be free of Mitchell, his $3.75 million annual salary and a series of legal entanglements that had become embarrassing to the club.

Mitchell recently was accused of rape in San Diego, but no formal charges were brought. It was not the first time he had been in trouble with the police -- or with the club -- but the Giants chose to emphasize his positive accomplishments during yesterday's post-trade news conference.

"Kevin did an excellent job for us in his 3 1/2 years as a Giant," general manager Al Rosen said. "I'm sure he will be an outstanding hitter for the Mariners. It's tough to break up a three-four-five combination like we've had the past couple of seasons [along with Matt Williams and Will Clark], but we needed to improve our pitching, and we felt this was a way to accomplish that goal."

Mitchell batted .256 with 27 homers and 69 RBI in 1991. His playing time was diminished by a knee injury. He hit 35 homers in 1990 after his breakthrough season the year before.

Swift, 30, and Jackson, 26, were the heart of the Mariners bullpen, which ranked fifth in the American League with 48 saves despite an injury that held stopper Mike Schooler to 34 innings. Swift appeared in 71 games, finishing with a 1-2 record, 1.99 ERA and a club-leading 17 saves. Jackson was 7-7 with a 3.25 ERA and 14 saves. Burba, 25, split time between the Mariners and the Class AAA Calgary Canons.

The Giants also gave up Remlinger, a 25-year-old left-hander who was the club's top draft choice in 1987.

There had been rumors of a deal between the Giants and Mariners for some time, but the Mariners apparently were waiting for a disposition of the rape charge. Seattle needed to improve an offense that ranked ninth in runs scored and ninth in home runs in 1991, but it did so at the expense of a pitching staff that now is suspect.

More trades were soon to follow. The Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos completed a five-player deal in which outfielder Dave Martinez, left-handed pitcher Scott Ruskin and infield prospect Willie Greene went to the Reds for pitchers John Wetteland and Bill Risley.

Martinez, who batted a career-high .295 for the Expos last year, will help solidify the Reds' outfield after the departure of Eric Davis. Ruskin was 4-4 with a 4.24 ERA and six saves, and Greene is a third-year minor-leaguer who was the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 1 draft choice in 1989.

Wetteland has been with three teams in two weeks. He was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Davis deal on Nov. 27. He would have been setting up Rob Dibble if he had stayed in Cincinnati. Now, he'll get a chance to be the Expos' late-inning stopper.

The Dodgers made a pair of deals in less than 24 hours, acquiring pitcher Rudy Seanez from the Cleveland Indians late Tuesday night and picking up journeyman first baseman Todd Benzinger from the Kansas City Royals yesterday for Chris Gwynn and Domingo Mota.

Benzinger batted .294 in a part-time role with the Royals last year, but is expected to get regular playing time at first base with the Dodgers, who lost Eddie Murray to free agency.

Gwynn, a first-round draft choice in 1985, batted .252 in a limited role with the Dodgers last year, but came off the bench to deliver 13 pinch hits. Mota is the son of Dodgers special-assignment coach Manny Mota.

The Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies also pulled off a morning deal, the Brewers sending infielder Dale Sveum to Philadelphia for pitcher Bruce Ruffin. The Baltimore Orioles expressed interest in Ruffin during the regular season, but apparently did not pursue him this week.

Trades galore

Yesterday's major trades at the winter meetings:

* The Giants traded OF Kevin Mitchell and P Mike Remlinger to the Mariners for P Bill Swift, P Mike Jackson and P Dave Burba.

* The Expos traded OF Dave Martinez, P Scott Ruskin and IF Willie Greene to the Reds for P John Wetteland and P Bill Risley.

* The Dodgers traded OF Chris Gywnn and IF-OF Domingo Mota to the Royals for 1B Todd Benzinger.

* The Phillies traded P Bruce Ruffin to the Brewers for IF Dale Sveum.

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