Saturday, December 09, 2000
Reds won't get Millwood
Might have acquired him if Braves had signed Hampton
By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer
DALLAS The Colorado Rockies' deal with free agent left-hander Mike Hampton ends the Reds' hopes of acquiring pitcher Kevin Millwood from Atlanta.
Reds general manager Jim Bowden wouldn't comment Friday at baseball's winter meetings on scenarios involving Millwood, a right-hander who would have bolstered Cincinnati's starting rotation.
Any sequence of events making Millwood a Red would have begun with Hampton becoming a Brave. In that event, Atlanta probably would have eased its pitching glut and sought payroll relief by trading Millwood, who's eligible for salary arbitration.
Now, with Colorado expected to sign Hampton today to an eight-year contract worth between $115 million and $121 million with a ninth-year option, the Braves must keep Millwood.
Maybe it's just as well, because securing Millwood probably would have meant losing first baseman Sean Casey.
After trading the popular Casey for Millwood, said major-league sources, the Reds then would have attempted to reopen the Scott Williamson-for-Ben Grieve discus sions with the Oakland A's. Outfielder Grieve would have filled Casey's void as a left-handed presence in Cincinnati's batting order, and Dmitri Young would have moved to first base.
Farfetched? Perhaps, though the Braves could use an upgrade at first base. They're prepared to enter 2001 with faded veteran
Wally Joyner, who is 38.
Atlanta, which needs bullpen help, also was interested in Reds reliever Scott Sullivan, who could have been featured in a Millwood trade.
Adding Millwood, 25, wouldn't have guaranteed an improved rotation. He finished 10-13 with a 4.66 ERA this year, down from 17-8 in 1998 and 18-7 in 1999.
The Reds found silver linings. Two Central Division rivals, Chicago and St. Louis, were among suitors for Hampton. We're very pleased that he signed out of our division, Bowden said.
Having spent nearly $170 million on Hampton and Denny Neagle, who signed a five-year, $51.5 million deal Monday, the Rockies may not be able to afford to keep Ron Villone, the left-hand er they obtained from Cincinnati on Nov.6. Villone was projected to receive a $3 million salary for 2001 in arbitration.
Under conditions of the trade, if the Rockies tender a contract to Villone or trade him, the Reds will receive two minor-leaguers to be named, as originally stipulated. If Colorado releases him, Cincinnati will receive an undisclosed amount of cash.
We'd be happy with the players or the cash, Bowden said.
Hampton received plenty of the latter after finishing 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA and being named Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series this year for the New York Mets. The deal places him in the financial stratosphere with Roger Clemens of the Yankees and Kevin Brown of Los Angeles, two other starters who'll make at least $15 million next year.
Mets general manager Steve Phillips tried hard to keep Hampton while bidding against the Rockies, Braves, Cardinals and Cubs.
It was close enough that it came down to the other issues having a chance to win and quality of life for his family, Phillips said after Mark Rodgers, Hampton's agent, told him that his client was heading elsewhere. The word was out that New York wasn't his favorite place. I was hoping that having been part of a team that went to the World Series would have been compelling enough.
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