MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The winter meetings were drawing to a sleepy close last night when the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals shook the baseball world wide-awake.
The Mets, continuing their dramatic restructuring, acquired two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen and infielder Bill Pecota for outfielder Kevin McReynolds and infielders Keith Miller and Gregg Jefferies.
The last in a series of deals consummated on the final full day of meetings at the Fontainebleau Resort rivals last year's trade between San Diego and Toronto -- Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar for Fred McGriffand Tony Fernandez -- as the biggest blockbuster in recent memory.
"I'm sure other deals in Mets history have been major," Mets vice-president Al Harazin said. "But I'm not sure there's one that involves as many quality players as this."
The Mets already had signed free agents Bobby Bonilla and Eddie Murray this off-season, and the acquisition of Saberhagen will strengthen a rotation that includes David Cone, Sid Fernandez and possibly Dwight Gooden, who is coming off rotator-cuff surgery.
"We're all terribly hopeful Dwight's going to be back and pitching Opening Day," Harazin said. "But right now we don't have one No. 1 pitcher, we have two."
The Royals, meanwhile, managed to improve without trading Kevin Appier and Tom Gordon, their coveted young starters. In addition to those two, their rotation still includes Mike Boddicker, Luis Aquino and Mark Gubicza.
Saberhagen was 13-8 for Kansas City last season with a 3.07 ERA. A 19th-round draft pick of the Royals in 1982, he pitched the first no-hitter of his career on Aug. 26 against the Chicago White Sox.
Asked how Royals fans will react to losing their ace, general manager Herk Robinson said: "I think the people of Kansas City are more concerned about winning than anything else. We have finished in sixth place the last two years. That's not good enough. It doesn't mean a thing."
Earlier yesterday, 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 for pitchers Bill Swift, Mike Jackson and Dave Burba.
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 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 Cannons.
The Giants also gave up Remlinger, a 25-year-old left-hander who was the club's top draft choice in 1987.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday's biggest trades at the winter meetings:
* The Orioles traded C Bob Melvin to the Royals for P Storm Davis.
* The Royals traded P Bret Saberhagen and IF Bill Pecota to the Mets for OF Kevin McReynolds, IF Gregg Jefferies and IF-OF Keith Miller.
* 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.