An Angel career filled with more peaks and valleys than Yosemite came to an end Wednesday when first baseman J.T. Snow was traded to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Allen Watson and double-A pitcher Fausto Macey.
The deal should bolster the Angel rotation--Watson, 26, went 8-12 with a 4.61 earned-run average in 1996, but General Manager Bill Bavasi believes the left-hander will eventually develop into a No. 1- or 2-caliber starter--but it leaves a gaping hole at first base and, possibly, designated hitter.
Snow was a two-time Gold Glove award winner whose steady and often spectacular defensive play saved the Angels numerous runs and teammates numerous errors.
Bavasi said if the season were to start today, outfielder Darin Erstad, who has played a total of three minor league games at first, would be the Angel first baseman. Erstad was expecting to split time between left field and DH next season.
“Every deal you make, you have to prepare like it’s your last, but I’d like to think that won’t be the case,” Bavasi said. “I’m not going to speculate, but I’d like to think we’re not done.”
Could the Angels be clearing room for Yankee slugger Cecil Fielder? The teams discussed a potential deal at the general managers’ meetings in Phoenix, the Yankees appear willing to pay at least $2 million of Fielder’s $7.2-million salary, and under baseball’s new labor agreement, the Angels will receive $2.7 million in revenue sharing funds.
But Bavasi said “there’s no chance we’re going to get [Fielder] right now.”
The free-agent pool is thinner than Manute Bol--Eddie Murray and Juan Samuel are the only available first basemen--so the acquisition of another first baseman would likely come through a trade.
Another option would be to move recently acquired third baseman Dave Hollins to first and pursue another third baseman--Boston’s Tim Naehring became a free agent Tuesday, and Texas’ Dean Palmer might be available in a trade. Bavasi said center fielder Jim Edmonds, who played first for several weeks in 1994, could also play some first base.
Few in baseball are as good around the bag as Snow, but the switch-hitter’s sporadic offense made him unreliable, and eventually expendable. Snow hit .343 with six homers and 17 RBIs as an Angel rookie in April, 1993, but by July, he was back in the minors.
The former Los Alamitos High standout was nearly traded to the Mets in the spring of 1994. He split the ’94 season between Vancouver and Anaheim, batting .220 in the big leagues.
Snow had a breakthrough season in 1995, hitting .289 with 24 homers and 102 RBIs, but he dipped to .257 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs in 1996 and hit .199 against left-handers.
Did the Angels give up on Snow?
“I’m not sure,” Snow said. “Maybe the Angels felt I couldn’t help them anymore. The toughest thing will be missing the guys on the team because I grew close to them . . . but I’m not dejected. This is going to be good for me.”
Though Snow has two years at $5.3 million left on his contract and Watson made just $240,000 in 1996--he’s eligible for arbitration this winter--the Angels won’t realize any immediate savings. As part of the deal, the Angels payed a substantial cash sum, believed to be about $900,000, to the Giants.
Watson has a 27-33 career record in 3 1/2 seasons with St. Louis and San Francisco. He’s not overpowering--he struck out 128 in 185 2/3 innings last season--but he has a decent fastball and a sharp curve. He gave up 28 homers, third-highest in the National League, and missed three weeks last July because of a ligament strain in his left elbow.
“It’s hard moving from team to team, but I know how it is in this business,” said Watson, who will join Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, Mark Gubicza and either Jim Abbott or Jason Dickson in the Angel rotation.
“I would have liked to have stayed with the Giants, but now I have to go to the American League and get Matt Williams [former Giant third baseman who was traded to Cleveland] out.”
Macey is a 21-year-old right-hander who went 10-7 with a 4.30 ERA for double-A Shreveport in 1996, his fourth year in the Giant organization. He was listed as the Giants’ fifth-best prospect after the 1995 season.
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The Snow File
* Former three-sport standout at Los Alamitos and son of former Ram All-Pro wide receiver Jack Snow.
* Acquired in Dec. 6, 1992 trade with Yankees with pitchers Russ Springer and Jerry Nielsen for pitcher Jim Abbott, after leading International League in batting with a .313 average at Columbus.
* Traded Wednesday to the Giants for pitchers Allen Watson and Fausto Macey.
MAJOR LEAGUE RECORD
Year Team G AB HR RBI BA 1992 NY (AL) 7 14 0 2 .143 1993 Angels 129 419 16 57 .241 1994 Angels 61 223 8 30 .220 1995 Angels 143 544 24 102 .289 1996 Angels 155 575 17 67 .257 Totals 495 1775 65 258 .257