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Red Sox get Gagne

Former Cy Young winner agrees to go to Boston

Posted: Tuesday July 31, 2007 1:56PM; Updated: Tuesday July 31, 2007 11:08PM
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Eric Gagne
Trading for Eric Gagne gives the Red Sox a third All-Star in the bullpen.
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By Jon Heyman,SI.com

The Boston Red Sox fortified their bullpen and enhanced their chances to get back to the World Series by acquiring star reliever Eric Gagne from the Rangers in the lone blockbuster made on trade deadline day.

The Red Sox sent three prospects to Texas for Gagne, then enticed Gagne to waive his veto rights by paying a significant portion of the $3.65 million remaining in incentives on his contract.

The Red Sox sent left-hander Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre to the Rangers to land Gagne, who earned shouts of "Game Over'' when he saved 84 straight games and won a Cy Young award for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Great move by Boston,'' one competing GM said.

Indeed. While Gagne may pitch only 20-30 innings for Boston, he will combine with closer Jonathan Papelbon to give Boston a formidable duo at the back end of their bullpen, one of the most formidable ever. Japanese League import Hideki Okajima has also been magnificent this season for the Red Sox. Club execs worried that Okajima might not be used to the grind of a 162-schedule.

Boston was not on Gagne's approved list of 12 teams to which he could be traded, so to entice him to waive his veto rights, the Red Sox will pay a $2.5 million up-front bonus that compensates him for the games-finished incentive monies he won't receive now as primarily a setup man. With his $6 million base salary and the $1.35 million Texas will pay to cover the incentives Gagne already earned, that will bring his pay to $9.85 million this year -- not bad for someone coming off two injury-ravaged seasons.

It was a big day for the Red Sox, though not quite perfect, They were hoping to land White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye. However, the White Sox ultimately rejected the Red Sox's offer of Wily Mo Pena and a reliever. Chicago asked for more in return for the 2005 World Series MVP, and may even decide to sign Dye to a contract extension.

After missing much of the past two years with injuries, Gagne has returned to form this season, with 16 saves in 17 chances and a 2.16 ERA.

Gagne will serve as Papelbon's primary setup man and will close on days Papelbon needs rest. Shortly after acquiring Gagne, Boston announced that reliever Brendan Donnelly will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow.

"We actually love our bullpen," Boston manager Terry Francona said of his relievers, who have the lowest ERA (2.74) in the majors. "I think it just got a lot better. Papelbon, Okajima and Gagne -- these are guys that you don't match up. You just let them pitch really good baseball."

The Rangers, who exacted a steep price for Mark Teixeira the day before, were shooting for big-name prospects for Gagne.

From the Yankees, they originally had been asking for one of three pitching prospects: Joba Chamberlain (who's been lighting up at 98 mph and may be a candidate to set up Mariano Rivera, as well), Phil Hughes or Ian Kennedy. Eventually, they centered on Kennedy and center fielder Melky Cabrera, but the Yankees ultimately decided they could part with neither player.

From the Mets, they requested Carlos Gomez, who happens to be one of Omar Minaya's favorite players. No shot there. The Mets eventually focused on Nationals closer Chad Cordero, whom they failed to land.

The Brewers were the fourth team in the mix for Gagne.

"There's a little mixed emotions in there," Rangers pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "The trade for [Teixeira] kind of had to happen, I think. He just wasn't going to re-sign here. At least we got some good players. Gagne, I kind of felt we had a chance to sign him. I'm a little more surprised, but we move on."

Gagne was a three-time All-Star and won the NL Cy Young Award in 2003 when he saved 55 games for the Dodgers.

He had 45 saves in 2004 but was limited to just 14 the following season because of elbow problems that eventually needed surgery. The hard-throwing native of Montreal pitched in only two games last season as he tried to come back from another elbow operation as well as surgery to repair a herniated disk.

From 2002-04, Gagne set a major league record by converting 84 consecutive saves. He'll likely be used in a setup role for the Red Sox, which joined the chase for Gagne after seeing him pitch consecutive days, further proof that he's healthy.

Agent Scott Boras said the chance to pitch on a playoff contender was irresistible for Gagne, who played in just two postseason games with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"Eric wanted to be in a playoff environment," Boras said. "He has respect for Papelbon, and I'm sure Papelbon has respect for him. While he won't be a full-time closer there, it was an opportunity to win."

The 25-year-old Gabbard went 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA, taking Curt Schilling's spot in the rotation while the right-hander was on the disabled list. Schilling, who was scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, could be activated later this week.

Murphy, 26, was batting .280 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 100 games for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Beltre, 18, batted .215 with five homers and 13 RBIs for the Gulf Coast Red Sox.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.