Cubs plug two holes by acquiring Lofton, RamirezPosted: Tuesday July 22, 2003 10:01 PM
Updated: Wednesday July 23, 2003 2:08 AM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Chicago Cubs got a boost for the NL Central stretch drive, acquiring center fielder Kenny Lofton and third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night for infielder Jose Hernandez and two minor leaguers.
The trade, announced minutes after the Pirates' 2-0 loss to NL Central leader Houston, reunites Lofton with Dusty Baker, his manager in San Francisco last season. The Cubs will be his seventh major league team.
Chicago has sought a center fielder since Corey Patterson was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament earlier this month. They also get an effective power hitter in Ramirez, who led the Pirates with 67 RBIs, without weakening their starting lineup.
"In Ramirez, we obviously needed a third baseman and in Kenny Lofton we got a quality leadoff man," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "Ramirez is a guy who has quietly knocked in a lot of runs this year. He's battled some inconsistencies but he's a good, young player.
"When you lose a guy like Corey Patterson, it's tough to replace, but Lofton is a guy who fits the bill."
Lofton has been slumping, with four hits in 21 at-bats, but is hitting .277 and remains an excellent center fielder. Ramirez leads all NL third basemen with 23 errors, but has 250 RBIs in the last 2 1/2 seasons.
"They're a good team and with Sammy and Moises there. ... I hope they'll help take me to the next level," said Ramirez, who is batting .280.
Sosa was almost overjoyed upon hearing the Cubs had picked up another proven run producer.
"This was the time to make a move. I think it's awesome," he said.
Baker said the move upgrades the Cubs' offense and defense.
"Aramis, when he's right, he's a big bat. Hopefully, a change of scenery -- he's only 25 -- will help him big time," Baker. "I know Kenny Lofton's a great player. He's an excellent leadoff man. He plays good defense and he brings a lot of energy to the ball club, and now is a prime time for more energy."
Hernandez, dealt for the second time this season, was told by Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon he'll replace Ramirez at third base.
Hernandez, who began the year with the Rockies, is making $1 million. He is leading the NL with 121 strikeouts while hitting .227 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs.
"I heard I wasn't in the deal, but they just kept asking for me," Hernandez said. "I just want to be in the lineup. The only thing I hate, I just got to move again."
The Pirates, making their second deal of the day and third in three days, also get minor league pitcher Matt Bruback and a player to be named. Pittsburgh also gave up a small amount of cash. Bruback is 6-8 with a 3.96 ERA at Triple-A Iowa.
Pittsburgh has dealt two regulars and its two top relievers, including All-Star Mike Williams, since Sunday as general manager Dave Littlefield begins to rebuild a team headed for its 11th consecutive losing season. The Pirates dealt left-hander Scott Sauerbeck to the Boston Red Sox earlier Tuesday.
The Pirates are looking to unload salaries -- Ramirez is due to make $6 million next season -- and restock their organization with younger, lower-priced players who can reach the majors within a year or two.
"We've got to quit building just to get to .500," Littlefield said.
The Pirates figure to make more deals before the July 31 deadline for trading without waivers.
Littlefield, however, said the Pirates must start stockpiling young players so they can try to compete for championships, not just to be a fringe player in division races.
The Pirates also have financial concerns, with owner Kevin McClatchy saying their losses since they moved into PNC Park in 2001 could reach $30 million by the end of this season.
"You don't like to trade a player like Ramirez who has come up through their system and performed like he did, but we need better talent and more financial flexibility," Littlefield said. "We need a lot more players to help us get to where we want to be."