Big deal: Castilla traded to Rays

4 teams, 9 players involved

Tampa Bay also signs G. Vaughn

December 14, 1999|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Colorado Rockies have spent years trying to strike the right balance of pitching and offense. Yesterday, they struck a deal that just might do the trick.

The Rockies were the most prominent club in a rare four-team trade that was announced yesterday morning at the winter meetings at the Anaheim Marriott Hotel. They sent power-hitting third baseman Vinny Castilla to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a complex deal that added veteran pitchers Rolando Arrojo and Scott Karl to their starting rotation and brought them veteran third baseman Jeff Cirillo and former Orioles infielder Aaron Ledesma.

The Milwaukee Brewers got former Orioles pitcher Jimmy Haynes from the Oakland Athletics and two players -- pitcher Jamey Wright and catcher Henry Blanco -- from the Rockies. The A's got minor-league pitcher Justin Miller from Colorado along with cash.

Then the Devil Rays signed outfielder Greg Vaughn to the largest free-agent contract of the off-season, $34 million for four years. Vaughn hit 45 homers with the Cincinnati Reds in 1999 and 50 the year before for the San Diego Padres.

The complex trade was the first involving as many as four teams since 1985, when the Brewers, Texas Rangers, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals put together a six-player trade that featured veteran catcher Jim Sundberg and starting pitchers Danny Darwin and Tim Leary.

"There almost was another team involved, if I could have gotten another type of player," said Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd.

The San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos also were involved in the discussions that led to the second nine-player trade of the off-season. (The Texas Rangers traded superstar Juan Gonzalez to the Detroit Tigers in a nine-man swap in early November.)

It could be an interesting 2000 season for several of the players involved in yesterday's trade. Arrojo and Karl will find out if they can thrive in the thin air of Denver, and Castilla will find out if he can keep putting up big home run numbers at sea level.

O'Dowd has moved decisively to upgrade a pitching staff that ranked a distant last in the major leagues last year with a 6.01 staff ERA. He traded struggling pitching ace Darryl Kile to the St. Louis Cardinals earlier in the off-season in a deal that netted young starter Jose Jimenez.

The Rockies also have altered their offensive chemistry. They traded outfielder Dante Bichette to the Reds in November, reportedly to reduce friction in the clubhouse.

"This team, as it stood in this division, didn't work," said O'Dowd, who was hired to replace long-time GM Bob Gebhard in October. "It didn't work for two reasons. One, there was a bad mix in the clubhouse. These guys just didn't click. And two, as much as this club led the league in runs scored, it had back-to-back poor seasons. So that's not an aberration. That's a pattern."

If the Rockies can bounce back into playoff contention in 2000, O'Dowd will be a strong candidate for Major League Executive of the Year in his first year as a general manager. At a time when other teams are finding it difficult to acquire even one major-league starting pitcher, he got two in the same deal after acquiring Jimenez.

Though Karl is the only one of the three to have at least a .500 record (11-11), the Rockies have succeeded in a deepening their staff. Of the 15 players they have acquired through trade or free agency since Oct. 30, eight are pitchers.

The Brewers also upgraded their pitching staff with the acquisition of Haynes and Wright. Haynes, who came up with the Orioles before he was dealt to the A's for outfielder Geronimo Berroa in 1997, was 7-12 with a 6.34 ERA last year. Wright was 4-3 with a 4.87 ERA in 16 starts for the Rockies.

"One of our primary goals at this meeting was to upgrade our pitching and catching situations," Milwaukee GM Dean Taylor said. "Jimmy Haynes and Jamey Wright will be great additions to our pitching staff, and Henry Blanco is a tremendous defensive catcher who appears ready to come into his own offensively."

Castilla joins a batting order that includes big-swinging Jose Canseco and Fred McGriff.

With the addition of Vaughn, the nucleus of the Tampa Bay lineup is among the most potent in the game, although the four of them struck out a total of 454 times last year.

The winter meetings have not been particularly active, but there were several other deals yesterday, most notably the trade that sent World Series hero Chad Curtis to the Rangers for minor-league pitchers Brandon Knight and Sam Marsonek.

First baseman-outfielder Brant Brown was traded for the second straight year during baseball's winter meetings, being sent to the Florida Marlins by the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Bruce Aven.

Brown, 28, hit .232 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs last season. Aven, also 28, hit .289 with 12 homers and 70 RBIs as a rookie.

Four-way deal

How yesterday's four-team major-league trade breaks down:

Team ..............................Obtained .......................Traded

Rockies .........................3B Jeff Cirillo ............3B Vinny Castilla

.......................................IF Aaron Ledesma ....P Justin Miller

.......................................P Rolando Arrojo ......C Henry Blanco

.......................................P Scott Karl ..............P Jamey Wright

Devil Rays .....................3B Vinny Castilla ......P Rolando Arrojo

.........................................................................IF Aaron Ledesma

Brewers .........................P Jamey Wright .........3B Jeff Cirillo

.......................................P Jimmy Haynes ........P Scott Karl

.......................................C Henry Blanco

Athletics ........................P Justin Miller ............P Jimmy Haynes

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