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Dodgers Get A’s Javier in Trade for Randolph

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoping to improve their speed and defense at the risk of damaging morale, the Dodgers traded popular second baseman Willie Randolph to the Oakland Athletics for utility outfielder Stan Javier early today.

The move will enable the Dodgers to return center fielder Juan Samuel to his natural position of second base. Meanwhile, Javier, 24, will play center field, at least until Kirk Gibson returns to the lineup after his rehabilitation from last summer’s knee surgery, possibly within a couple weeks.

“There are a number of factors that went into this trade,” said Fred Claire, Dodger vice president, after announcing the deal at 1:25 a.m. EDT. “First of all, we feel we are getting a fine young player in Javier. He will add speed to our ballclub.

“We also have to look ahead to the return of Kirk Gibson to our outfield. Kirk is making good progress. We feel he will be ready soon.”

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In case it is proven that Gibson’s surgically repaired leg will serve him better in right field, Javier could become a full-time player. In 19 games as an A’s reserve outfielder this year, Javier has a .242 average with two triples. But he is more known for his defense and speed: He has 34 stolen bases in 37 attempts in the last two years.

Although this is his fourth full season in the major leagues, he has been lost in the Oakland outfield. This season, for example, he has played behind Jose Canseco, Dave Henderson and Rickey Henderson.

In 1988, when he played 125 games, Javier hit .257. Javier also has good baseball bloodlines, as he is the son of former major league infielder Julian Javier.

The downside of the deal is that the Dodgers will be losing a quiet clubhouse leader in Randolph, who was voted the team’s most valuable player last season.

“It would be terrible if they traded Willie,” said one Dodger Saturday, when rumors of the trade swept through the team. “Willie doesn’t just have ability, he has heart.”

The Dodgers, however, have worried about Randolph’s legs. He will turn 36 this summer, and they worry about the effects of age on both his speed and his defensive range. He has committed four errors in 26 games at second base after committing just nine errors in 140 games last season.

At the plate, he is still an effective No. 2 hitter, and was batting .271 with one homer and nine RBIs. Last season, his first with the Dodgers after signing as a free agent from the New York Yankees, Randolph hit .282 with two homers and 36 RBIs.

Said Claire: “I can’t say enough good things about Willie’s contribution. From the day he signed with us, he has been an outstanding player and representative.”

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But the Dodgers hope that Samuel, by returning to second base, will become a more relaxed hitter and make up for Randolph’s loss. It was at second base that Samuel has had his best years, averaging 18 homers and 78 RBIs while playing five seasons there for Philadelphia before being converted to a center fielder in 1988.

“I was hoping Willie would stay, he was good batting behind me, protecting me with my stolen bases,” Samuel said late Saturday. “And I haven’t taken a ground ball at second base in two years . . . but I can play there. I’ll be fine.”

Samuel allowed a fly ball to bounce over his head for a double on opening day against San Diego, and has been both great and awful in center field since.

While Samuel has not publicly talked about returning to second base since the season started, he has carried around his second baseman’s glove, and probably would have left the Dodgers as a free agent this winter if he was not moved to the infield.

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Randolph nearly signed with Oakland before signing with the Dodgers after the 1988 season. The A’s offered him only a one-year contract at the time, so Randolph decided to take the Dodgers’ two-year deal.

From the start of spring training, Randolph accepted the fact that he would probably be traded to make room at second base for Samuel.

“I understand how the game works, it is a business,” Randolph said at the time. “I figure I could make the move from New York to Los Angeles, so anything else will be easy. I like the Dodgers, but if I have to go, I have to go. I understand that, and don’t get too caught up in it.”


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