The New York Yankees made a rare deal with the cross-town Mets on Friday, trading outfielder David Justice for third baseman Robin Ventura.
The trade is the first in more than eight years between the teams and the first involving major leaguers since 1992. The teams have exchanged players only six times since the Mets began play in 1962.
“It’s kind of weird to be traded from the Yankees to the Mets with the rivalry and all of that,” Justice said. “I’m at that point of my career where you can always be traded at any minute. I’m happy to go to the Mets. There are far worse teams to be traded to.”
The deal satisfies needs for both teams. With the retirement of Scott Brosius, the Yankees were in need of a stopgap at third base until heralded prospect Drew Henson is ready to take over.
“It was obvious that we had a void to fill at third base in 2002,” Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman said. “It is our belief that Robin--with his left-handed bat and on-base average--was our best option.”
The Yankees also signed reliever Steve Karsay to a four-year contract worth about $22.25 million on Friday. The deal includes a club option for a fifth year.
The Mets struggled offensively last season and scored the fewest runs in baseball.
They were also second-to-last in the National League in home runs. Met right fielders hit .240 with just 15 homers and 61 runs batted in last season.
Justice, who played for teams that have reached the playoffs the last 10 seasons, will provide the Mets with the left-handed power hitter they’ve been seeking to protect Mike Piazza.
Justice has 294 career homers, including a career-high 41 in 2000 for Cleveland and the Yankees.
Justice, 35, struggled last season, going on the disabled list twice for an injured right groin, and batted just .241 with 18 homers and 51 RBIs.
“I’ve got a lot left,” he said. “Last year was based solely on injuries, no doubt about it. I still have my bat speed and still have my defensive skills. I don’t feel like I’ve gone down at all. Injuries played a part.”
Ventura, 34, batted .237 with 21 homers and 61 RBIs for the Mets last season. He is a solid fielder and a clutch hitter, especially with the bases loaded. His 15 career grand slams are the most among active players and ninth all-time.
His career on-base percentage of .364 is 41 points higher than Brosius’.
The Yankees are close to a deal with first baseman Jason Giambi, who has led the American League in on-base percentage the past two seasons.
Pat Rapp and Ismael Valdes, free agent right-handers who struggled after being acquired before last season, will not be offered arbitration by the Angels.
The Angels also declined to offer arbitration to shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who has been unable to come back from shoulder surgery.
DiSarcina, 34, has not played extensively since he was the club’s most valuable player in 1998.
Rapp, 34, was 5-12 with a 4.76 earned-run average in 31 games, including 28 starts.
The Angels didn’t provide him much offense, averaging 2.3 runs in his defeats.
Valdes, 28, was 9-13 with a 4.45 ERA and was on the disabled list twice, first with a split fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand and again because of a sore right shoulder.
By declining to offer arbitration, the Angels waived their rights to negotiate with any of the three players until May 1.
An attorney for Jose Canseco entered an innocent plea for him in a Halloween night scuffle at a Miami Beach nightclub.
Circuit Judge Stanford Blake set trial Feb. 19 on two felony counts of aggravated battery, but it is uncertain whether both sides would be ready at that time.
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Friday’s player transactions in major league baseball:
Baltimore Orioles: Designated pitcher John Wasdin for assignment.
New York Yankees: Signed free-agent pitcher Steve Karsay, who had been with the Atlanta Braves, to a four-year contract with a club option for a fifth year; acquired third baseman Robin Ventura from the New York Mets for outfielder David Justice.
Toronto Blue Jays: Traded pitcher Billy Koch to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Justin Miller and third baseman Eric Hinske.
Atlanta Braves: Re-signed catcher Javy Lopez to a one-year contract with a player’s option for the 2003 season; announced that the contract of pitcher Trey Moore has been purchased by Hanshin (Japan Central League).
Cincinnati Reds: Offered salary arbitration to pitchers Pete Harnisch, Jose Rijo and Joey Hamilton.
Houston Astros: Re-signed outfielder Orlando Merced to a one-year contract.
Colorado Rockies: Offered salary arbitration to pitchers Brian Bohanon, Dan Miceli and Jay Powell.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Offered salary arbitration to pitcher Mike Morgan and outfielder Danny Bautista.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Re-signed shortstop Chris Gomez to a one-year contract with a club option for the 2003 season.