Yankees deal Wright to Orioles

Updated: November 12, 2006, 6:37 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees wanted to save $3 million, and for that price the Baltimore Orioles thought Jaret Wright was a bargain.

Wright was traded to the Orioles on Sunday for right-handed reliever Chris Britton. As part of the deal, the Yankees will pay $4 million of Wright's $7 million salary next year.

New York had until Sunday to opt out of Wright's contract, a move that also would have cost the Yankees a $4 million buyout. Wright, a right-hander who turns 31 on Dec. 29, will be reunited with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. When the pair were with the Atlanta Braves in 2004, Wright went 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA.

"I think the primary factor is his relationship with Leo back in his Atlanta days," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said. "He costs us $3 million. When you look at the free-agent market and consider what it would cost for a guy like this, it's a great move for us."

After agreeing to a $21 million, three-year contract, Wright had a pair of disappointing seasons with the Yankees. He injured a shoulder early in the 2005 season and was 5-5 with a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts, then went 11-7 with a 4.49 ERA this year, not pitching more than 6 1-3 innings in any of his 27 starts.

"Our feeling is the injuries are behind him," Duquette said.

New York heads into the free-agent signing season in need of starting pitching. Chien-Ming Wang is the only given, although it appears likely Mike Mussina will stay with New York. The Yankees have until Wednesday to decide on his $17 million option, which carries a $1.5 million buyout, but the sides have been working on a two-year contract in the $20 million to $25 million range.

Randy Johnson is coming off back surgery and Carl Pavano hasn't pitched in the major leagues since June 2005 because of shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and rib injuries.

Britton, who turns 24 on Dec. 16, was taken by Baltimore on the eighth round of the 2001 amateur draft. He made his major league debut last season, going 0-2 with one save and a 3.35 ERA in 52 relief appearances with the Orioles while holding batters to a .228 average. He also was 1-0 with a 2.81 ERA and two saves in 13 games for Bowie of the Double-A Eastern League.

"This acquisition provides additional flexibility to our pitching staff as we continue the transition toward the 2007 season," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement. Cashman was en route to the GM meetings, which start Monday in Naples, Fla., and could not be reached for comment.

Wright bolsters an Orioles rotation that struggled for much of last season. Opening-day starter Rodrigo Lopez went 9-18, Bruce Chen was winless and by September the rotation included rookies Adam Loewen and Hayden Penn.

Baltimore's rotation for 2007 now includes veterans Kris Benson and Wright, along with Erik Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Loewen.

"Philosophically, any time you can trade a reliever for a starter, you've got to do it," Duquette said. "We have some depth. He definitely upgrades the rotation. How much so, we won't find out until we're in the season."


AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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