Braves get Ortiz, Byrd but wonder about Maddux

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

NEW YORK -- Atlanta traded for Russ Ortiz and signed Paul Byrd on Tuesday, a day after the winter meetings ended, giving the Braves plenty of options heading into Greg Maddux's decision whether to accept salary arbitration.

Free agents Joe Girardi (St. Louis) and Troy O'Leary (Chicago Cubs) found new teams, Jeff Kent intensified talks with Houston and the New York Yankees kept up their discussions with Hideki Matsui.

Ortiz, a 14-game winner who helped lead San Francisco to the NL title, was dealt to the Braves for young left-hander Damian Moss and minor league right-hander Manuel Mateo. Hours later, the Braves agreed to a $10 million, two-year contract with Byrd.

"We're restructuring our pitching staff, but not haphazardly, by bringing in Ortiz and Byrd," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "It's a strong staff, a young staff and, we believe, a good staff."

Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner, has until Thursday to accept an arbitration offer from the Braves, who lost a starter when Tom Glavine signed with the New York Mets.

Scott Boras, the agent for Maddux, said it wasn't clear whether Tuesday's moves would affect his client's decision.

"As I've said all along, Maddux is Maddux," Boras said. "He's got some decisions to make, some choices to make. He's had offers from the Braves and other teams. He's kind of on his own timetable."

Atlanta's rotation currently includes Mike Hampton, acquired from Colorado in a three-team deal, along with Ortiz, Byrd, Kevin Millwood and Jason Marquis. If Maddux accepts arbitration, the Braves could quickly trade Ortiz.

The Cubs continued to add depth to their bench, going into the free-agent market to give O'Leary a $750,000, one-year deal that could reach $1 million, with performance bonuses. The left-handed-hitting outfielder has batted .277 with 122 home runs and 563 RBIs in 10 years in the majors. He's .270 as a pinch-hitter.

"We want to get stronger throughout the lineup," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "We're just continuing to add to that. He can play in the outfield, he can play all three spots. "

While the Yankees investigated a possible trade for Montreal's Bartolo Colon over the weekend, they also kept up talks with Matsui. The Yankees and Matsui's agent, Arn Tellem, have discussed a possible three- or four-year contract, with an average salary of $6 million to $8 million, a baseball executive said on the condition of anonymity.

Across town, discussions slowed on a potential three-way trade involving the New York Mets, Colorado and Texas. The Rockies would have sent Neagle to the Mets, who would have sent Roger Cedeno and Pedro Astacio to Texas, and Jeromy Burnitz to the Rockies. Todd van Poppel would have gone to the Rockies.

Texas and the Mets couldn't agree on how to split the remaining $14.5 million Cedeno is due over the next three years, another baseball executive said, also on the condition of anonymity.

Kent, who has until Thursday to accept the Giants' arbitration offer, also is talking to the Houston Astros.

"Talks have intensified with the Astros, as well as other teams," said Jeff Klein, the agent for the former NL MVP. "There could be a decision in the next 24 hours, but that by no means is certain. There are additional players who have surfaced to express interest the last couple of days. We're just going to proceed comprehensively with people."

San Francisco saved more than $2.5 million with the Ortiz trade. Ortiz, who beat Atlanta twice in the playoffs, will make $4.6 million next year, and Moss is likely to get $1 million to $2 million in arbitration.

"It was brutal," Giants GM Brian Sabean said. "I really had a hard time getting on the phone with him. You draft him, see him develop under your eyes. If it weren't for Russ, we wouldn't have gotten to the World Series.

"Quite frankly, I hope Russ beats everyone in our division. We're not competing against Russ Ortiz, per se. With the business at hand, which is very complicated, you have to make the best deal and move on."

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