Giants give up Nathan in deal for catcher

MINNEAPOLIS -- All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski was traded
Friday by the tightly-budgeted Minnesota Twins to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan and two minor leaguers.

The minor-league pitchers are right-hander Boof Bonser and
left-hander Francisco Liriano. The Twins will give up either a
player to be named later or cash to complete the deal.

Pierzynski, 26, batted .312 with 35 doubles, 11 homers and 74
RBI in 137 games for the Twins this season. An All-Star in 2002,
Pierzynski will earn a significant raise through salary arbitration
from the $365,000 he made in 2003.

"It's one of those things that was eventually going to
happen," Pierzynski said, reached on a golf course in Hawaii. "I
was one of the first guys people had talked about. And they've got
the guy coming behind me."

Minnesota has the first overall pick in the 2001 draft, Joe Mauer, waiting to take over as its catcher. Mauer was the Twins'
minor league player of the year, batting .335 with Class A Fort
Myers and .341 for Double-A New Britain.

"That's all part of the reasons we decided to make this
trade," general manager Terry Ryan said. "We're dealing from a
position of strength. We've got some talent at catching come up and
some financial concerns, as far as making sure the pieces fit."

Owner Carl Pohlad wants to keep Minnesota's $56 million payroll
the same, and Pierzynski, 26, will get a significant raise
through salary arbitration from the $365,000 he made last season. After trading Pierzynski, general manager Terry Ryan might have to make more moves this offseason to keep the core of his roster intact.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and left-handed pitcher Johan Santana are among four other players eligible for arbitration, and
relievers Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins and outfielder Shannon Stewart are free agents. So it was no secret the AL Central champion Twins had to make some moves this fall.

Pierzynski spoke with Mientkiewicz shortly after hearing the
news, and they briefly lamented the limitations of a small-market
club. Both players have spent their entire careers in the
organization, debuting in 1999 on a team that used 18 different

"It's exciting, but I'm sad at the same time," said

"It hasn't really kicked in," he said. "I'm still kind of in
a state of shock."

Benito Santiago, the Giants' main catcher last year, has filed
for free agency.

Nathan, 26, went 12-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 78 appearances for San
Francisco last season. He led NL relievers in victories, and Ryan said he'll be used as a setup man.

In two-plus seasons with the Giants, Nathan went 24-10 with a
4.12 ERA in 121 games -- 29 starts. He made the major league minimum
$300,000 last season.

Bonser, 22, who pitched in Double-A last year, was viewed by the
Giants as a potential closer. Liriano, 20, ended the season in the
Class A California League.

"While it didn't come up easy to give up Joe, we feel we've got
some alternatives within the organization," San Francisco general
manager Brian Sabean said. "It's not often you can send a
right-handed reliever and two unproven prospects for a front-line,
All-Star catcher."

Contacted two weeks ago by Minnesota about acquiring Pierzynski,
Sabean was surprised to learn of his availability.

"We wouldn't have made the move if he wasn't an all-around
player," Sabean said.

The Twins weren't eager to get rid of Pierzynski, but they were
confident enough in Mauer and backup Matthew LeCroy to do it.
LeCroy batted .287 with 17 homers and 64 RBIs in 345 at-bats,
splitting time between designated hitter, catcher and first base.

"It's hard to replace a guy with A.J.'s talent," LeCroy said
from his South Carolina home. "He was a big part of our team's
success. ... Joe has done as much as he could. I think they think
he's ready, and it's time for him to go out and show it."

Pierzynski got to know Giants star Barry Bonds when they both
played for a team of major leaguers touring Japan following the
2002 season. He was excited that his fresh start is coming with a
playoff team in Pac Bell Park, widely considered one of baseball's

"It's outside, so that'll be very nice," he said. "Playing in
the Metrodome all these years gets kind of old and kind of stale."