Padres Jettison Fernandez’s $2.3-Million Salary : Baseball: They send him to Mets for Whitehurst, Dozier and a minor leaguer in an economy move.
All-star shortstop Tony Fernandez was traded Monday from the cost-cutting San Diego Padres to the New York Mets, who needed to shore up their infield.
In exchange, the Mets gave up pitcher Wally Whitehurst and outfielder D.J. Dozier, along with a minor leaguer to be determined in December.
“Certainly, one of the major weaknesses we had in 1992 was our offense,” said Gerry Hunsicker, the Mets’ assistant vice president of baseball operations. “We clearly will not be able to go out and spend large types of money to acquire celebrity-type talent, as we did last year. This is a vehicle that allows us to acquire a celebrity-type player without going into the free-agent market.”
Fernandez, a 30-year-old switch-hitter, slumped badly after the All-Star game. He batted .275 for the year with four homers, 37 runs batted in and 20 steals in 40 attempts.
The Padres plan to replace Fernandez with Kurt Stillwell.
Fernandez will replace Dick Schofield, who batted .205 with four home runs and 36 RBIs as the Mets slumped to fifth place in the NL East with a 72-90 record.
In Whitehurst, the Padres get a 28-year-old right-hander with an 11-22 record and a 3.83 earned-run average for his career. He was 3-9 this season with a 3.62 ERA in 11 starts and 33 relief appearances.
Dozier, 27, batted .191 with no homers and two RBIs in 47 at-bats for the Mets after batting .234 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 64 games at triple-A Tidewater.
He returned to baseball in 1989 after playing football as a running back at Penn State. He has played professional football in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions for the past three seasons.
After committing a career-high 20 errors in 1991, Fernandez made 11 last season, including only one in his last 58 games, and ranked third among NL shortstops with a .983 fielding percentage. He has a .285 batting average for his career and is a four-time All-Star.
“While he might have lost a step along the way, this guy is an offensive catalyst,” Hunsicker said. “I think we can expect he’ll hit .270, .280 for us. I think he’s a very productive player and wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the All-Star game next year.”
Fernandez played for the Toronto Blue Jays for eight years before being traded along with Fred McGriff for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar.
Fernandez had a $2.3-million option for next season, and the Padres didn’t intend to exercise it. San Diego, which claims it will lose $8.5 million this year, traded pitcher Craig Lefferts and his $2-million salary on Aug. 31.
The Padres are expected to allow Benito Santiago, Randy Myers and Jim Deshaies to depart via free agency.
“It’s nothing personal, or any reflection of their abilities, but strictly a business matter,” Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, said.
“We had to make the best deal we could make under the time constraints of the contract. We’re trying to put the best team and best foot forward to be competitive next year. That sometimes means you take a chance with some young players.”
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