Sanders Traded to Giants : Baseball: But he may have left his heart in Cincinnati. Reds hope to get pitching help from Portugal and Burba.
The Cincinnati Reds got the pitching they needed through a stunning eight-player trade Friday night that sent Deion Sanders and four minor leaguers to the San Francisco Giants.
Cincinnati obtained pitchers Mark Portugal and Dave Burba and center fielder Darren Lewis, who will take over for Sanders in center.
Sanders was unsettled by the trade, which sent him to the city where he helped the 49ers win a Super Bowl last January. The two-sport star is a football free agent and hadn’t indicated which NFL team will be his next.
Sanders had hoped to win a World Series with the Reds, who lead the NL Central, then move on to the NFL. The trade to the struggling Giants, last in the NL West, upset his plans.
“I’ve got to think about what I really want to do with myself, if not just retire from one sport--which I’ve been contemplating all year anyway--and do whatever my heart decides to do,” Sanders said. “But it’s going to take me a couple of days to think about it.”
Red General Manager Jim Bowden’s lip quivered when he talked about having to deal Sanders. Bowden traded center fielder Roberto Kelly for Sanders on May 29 of last year, hoping to improve the Reds’ attendance.
Bowden said he had to trade Sanders in order to complete the deal.
“It was difficult to trade Deion,” Bowden said. “He was one of my favorite people. But it’s a business.”
Cincinnati has the best record in the league, but no stable rotation. Jose Rijo left a game this week with an injured elbow, was put on the disabled list Friday and probably will need season-ending surgery.
Starters Kevin Jarvis, C.J. Nitkowski and John Roper were demoted to the minors because of struggles. Roper, the No. 3 starter in spring training, has been sidelined much of the season by calcification in his shoulder joint.
In addition to the two-sport star, the Reds gave up Roper, pitchers Ricky Pickett and Scott Service and infielder Dave McCarty. Roper currently is sidelined by the sore shoulder.
“The Giants are aware he’s hurt,” Bowden said. “They’re aware he’s a risk.”
“We’re satisfied that John will be able to start throwing in a week to 10 days,” Giant General Manager Bob Quinn said.
The deal will add several million dollars to the Reds’ payroll.
Portugal, 32, is in the second of three guaranteed years with San Francisco. He makes $3.93 million this season and will get $4 million next year. There’s an option for 1997, when he would make $4.25 million.
Lewis got $1.85 million in arbitration, and Burba makes $600,000.
Sanders makes $2.25 million and gets a $1-million bonus if he plays the entire baseball season. He makes far more in NFL salary and endorsements.
“Welcome home, Deion!” 49er Coach George Seifert said after hearing about the deal following Friday afternoon’s training camp workout. “I’ve been a Giants fan, and I’m even more of a Giants fan now.”
Sanders’ baseball contract is up after the season. He had lobbied for a long-term deal to stay in Cincinnati, where he enjoyed the atmosphere.
“It’s a big surprise. I’m always surprised when I’m traded,” Sanders said. “I’m not bitter or anything. I love this team. The organization has been good to me.”
Sanders didn’t accomplish much on the field in Cincinnati, missing substantial time last season because of a foot injury and much of this season because of a sprained ankle. He’s batting .240 in 33 games with one homer and a weak .296 on-base percentage as the team’s leadoff hitter.
But he became one of the team’s biggest stars off the field. He started a program to bring inner-city youths to games. Some of them were there Friday night, displaying a banner in left field that read: “Prime Time’s Back.”
The Giants have been hit hard in the stands by baseball’s problems, losing attendance at an alarming rate. Sanders may be able to draw fans back to Candlestick Park as he teams with Barry Bonds in the outfield.
Portugal is 5-5 with a 4.15 earned-run average in 17 starts for the Giants this season. He’ll be counted upon to pull the Reds through the loss of Rijo.
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