KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Orioles traded struggling reliever Mike DeJean to the New York Mets yesterday for journeyman outfielder Karim Garcia in a move that had both clubs hoping the players involved could benefit from a change of scenery.
DeJean had been one of the season's biggest disappointments for the Orioles, who signed him to be their primary right-handed setup man and watched him bungle several games.
After acquiring Jason Grimsley from Kansas City last month, adding to their right-handed relief corps, the Orioles signaled a desire to trade DeJean, and the Mets stepped up with the offer they liked best.
"This gave us an opportunity to move him, and get something in return that can help us win some games this year," said Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie.
Garcia hit .234 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 62 games with the Mets. They signed him to be their starting right fielder, but he wound up in a platoon with Shane Spencer and continued to lose playing time, especially after the team acquired Richard Hidalgo from the Houston Astros.
The Orioles acquired the left-handed-hitting Garcia to bolster their offense, even though his presence further complicates manager Lee Mazzilli's job of finding playing time for everybody.
"He's going to be playing right field," Mazzilli said. "I'm going to put him in the lineup and let him play out there. He'll be out there against right-handers, and we'll see with left-handers how he does."
With B.J. Surhoff and David Segui hoping to come off the disabled list, and David Newhan giving the team another potent left-handed bat, this move was viewed in the clubhouse as a precursor to another move before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Besides trading one of their second basemen - Jerry Hairston or Brian Roberts - the Orioles could perhaps do a package deal involving a left-handed-hitting outfielder, either Larry Bigbie or Jay Gibbons. Garcia would fill the void, at least until the team can pursue free agent Magglio Ordonez.
Garcia, 28, has played for seven teams in his 10-year big league career. He made a stop with the Orioles in September 2000, going hitless in 16 at-bats.
His best season came with Cleveland in 2002, when he hit .299 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs after the All-Star break.
Last year, the Indians traded Garcia to the Yankees, and he hit .305 in 52 games.
Garcia was charged with assault and battery, along with Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson, after a bullpen brawl involving a Boston Red Sox groundskeeper during the AL Championship Series. Garcia also had a publicized altercation this spring with a pizza delivery man in Port St. Lucie, Fla., though charges were never pressed.
Mazzilli, the former Yankees first base coach, said Garcia is "a team player who knows the game."
"I spoke to him, and he said he's excited about coming here," Mazzilli said. "He brings a lot to the table. He brings some leadership, and he's going to make the club a better club."
DeJean is making $1.5 million this season, and Garcia is making $800,000, so the move saves the Orioles about $315,000 over the remaining 72 games. Neither player is signed beyond 2004.
DeJean, 33, was 0-5 with a 6.13 ERA in 37 relief appearances.