Mets solidify offense with Appier-for-Vaughn tradePosted: Thursday December 27, 2001 6:34 PM
Updated: Saturday December 29, 2001 12:26 AM
NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Mets took another big step in upgrading the worst offense in the majors, finalizing a trade Thursday to acquire former MVP Mo Vaughn from the Anaheim Angels for pitcher Kevin Appier.
After several days of talks, agent Jeff Moorad and Mets general manager Steve Phillips worked out details to restructure Vaughn's contract and clear the way for the trade.
"I don't think this whole thing has hit me yet," Vaughn said. "I wish we could start tomorrow. I'm just a small piece in this big powerful puzzle."
Vaughn follows All-Star Roberto Alomar and leadoff hitter Roger Cedeno to New York. Free-agent slugger Juan Gonzalez, who, like Vaughn, is represented by Moorad, could be next.
"We've been able to accomplish that in ways we didn't expect," Phillips said of reviving the offense. "To add a hitter like Mo Vaughn wasn't something we anticipated going into the offseason."
The Mets and Angels agreed on the trade last weekend, contingent on New York being able to defer some of the money Vaughn would be paid.
Vaughn was owed $50 million in salary and bonuses over the next three years but agreed to rework the contract. The Angels will pay the remaining $8 million of Vaughn's signing bonus and some of Vaughn's salary will be deferred each of the next three years.
There will be a set payout schedule for the deferred money instead of an interest rate adjustment, a baseball source told The Associated Press on condition he not be identified. That part of the deal was signed off on by both the union and the commissioner's office.
"If that has any bearing on helping us get any more key cogs to add to this machine, that's why we did it," Vaughn said.
Primary in that could be Gonzalez, whose first choice is to join the Mets. Moorad has talked to Phillips about Gonzalez since the beginning of the free-agent period. Alomar, Mike Piazza and Al Leiter have all expressed a desire for the team to sign Gonzalez.
"Obviously these discussions with Mo gave us ample opportunity to talk about Juan, but for the better of both situations we put Juan discussions on hold," Moorad said. "Juan made clear the Mets are a team he is very interested in. I told Steve we won't make a deal elsewhere until we take their temperature on Juan."
Vaughn also received increased no-trade protection, according to the source. He had been able to list six teams he would be willing to be traded to.
Neither player waived the right to file a trade demand in the 15 days following next year's World Series.
After going to the World Series in 2000, the Mets went 82-80 this year. They particularly struggled to get production from first baseman Todd Zeile. New York's 13 homers from its first basemen were last in the majors and the 70 RBIs were second worst.
Zeile, who underwent elbow surgery last month, is set to make $6 million in the final year of his contract, and the Mets would like to deal him.
To add Vaughn, the Mets needed to clear salary space. Appier's $9 million contract for 2002 is almost a match to the $10 million Vaughn is due next season.
After that, however, Vaughn's salary is dramatically higher. He gets $15 million in both 2003 and 2004, with a team option of $14 million for 2005. In contrast, Appier will make $11 million in 2003, and $12 million in 2004.
Vaughn has 299 career home runs and adds protection for Piazza. But Vaughn comes with some negatives. He is 34 and did not play last season, recovering from a ruptured left biceps tendon. He also led the league with 181 strikeouts in 2000, his last full season.
"He's motivated. He knows the questions," Phillips said. "I came out fired up just talking to him."
Trading Appier, a right-hander, also leaves New York with a starting rotation of four left-handers -- Leiter, Shawn Estes, Glendon Rusch and Bruce Chen -- and Steve Trachsel as the only righty. It would be an unusual alignment, but Phillips said it doesn't bother him.
Vaughn, from nearby Norwalk, Conn., was unhappy in Anaheim and expressed a desire to return to the East Coast. He began his career with Boston, where he won the 1995 AL MVP award.
"There's a certain mentality and attitude that goes along with playing on the East Coast," Vaughn said. "That fit me as a player."
Appier went 11-10 with a 3.57 ERA in his only season with the Mets. He signed a $42 million, four-year deal with New York last year.
"When you sign a four-year deal, you know it's possible to get traded after one year but you don't anticipate it," Appier said. "But if I was going to get traded, this is a favorable situation."
Appier is the second addition to Anaheim's rotation in the past two days. On Wednesday, the Angels signed Aaron Sele to a $24 million, three-year deal.
"We now have two more starting pitchers on the staff that are formidable pitchers without losing a player who was on the field last year," Angels GM Bill Stoneman said. "We've taken a giant step forward."