Sat, Dec 24, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Baseball’s hot stove heats up with intriguing moves

NY Times News Service, NEW YORK

MAJOR LEAGUES

Two significant moves reignited baseball’s hot stove after it had seemingly cooled in advance of the holiday weekend.

Gio Gonzalez, a left-handed starter for the Oakland Athletics who was a target of a number of teams this winter, was traded to the Washington Nationals in exchange for four minor league prospects. It will be his fourth major league organization.

“It’s 99 percent done,” Gonzalez said on Thursday night. “It’s pending a physical and I’m just waiting to hear from my agent.”

Also on Thursday, the St Louis Cardinals disclosed that they had come to terms on a two-year contract with outfielder Carlos Beltran, a free agent who played for the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants last season.

Gonzalez, 26, started 32 games for the A’s last season and finished 16-12 with a 3.12 earned run average, 10th in the American League. He drew the interest of numerous teams, including the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

Now, he will inject more talent into the National League East, which has become increasingly competitive in the last months with the aggressive moves by the Miami Marlins.

And the trade, to some extent, would seem to leave the Mets closer to the basement of the division.

Beltran, 34, spent more than six seasons with the Mets before being traded to the Giants in July. He batted .300 with a .385 on-base percentage last season. He hit 22 home runs and drove in 84 runs in what was widely viewed as a strong comeback season from the previous season, when he was sidelined a good portion of the year as he recuperated from knee surgery.

His arrival in St Louis will soften slightly the sting of Albert Pujols’ departure to the Los Angeles Angels. The Cardinals can now place Beltran in right field and allow Lance Berkman to slide into the vacancy left by Pujols at first base.

The signing will also provide somewhat of a serendipitous twist, as Beltran will share a clubhouse with Adam Wainwright, who famously got Beltran to look at a called third strike to close out Game 7 of the NL Championship Series in 2006.

The Cardinals went on to win the World Series that October, while the Mets were sent into a spiral of disappointment that has continued to this day.

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