|Monday, November 25
Tigers deal Simon to Pirates for three minor leaguers
The Tigers, apparently wary of a possible large salary increase Simon could get this winter in arbitration, acquired Australian-born left-hander Adrian Burnside and two prospects to be named.
Simon, 27, is coming off his best major league season, hitting .301 with 19 homers and a team-high 82 RBI. He hit .316 with runners in scoring position and struck out only 30 times in 482 at-bats, making him the toughest AL batter to strike out.
''We've been looking to improve our production in right field, center field and first base,'' Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said. ''He plays a position we've been looking to improve, and he's been a productive player.''
''It clears up a logjam,'' Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila said. ''And in return for Simon, we got three guys that we think can help the organization. The left-handed reliever is at least close to being a big league guy, and the two prospects will help us later.''
Simon made $290,000 last season, but is salary to expected to jump to more than $1 million. He has 2 years, 149 days of major league service, 12 days above the cutoff this winter.
Simon originally was signed by Atlanta in 1992 and played briefly for the Braves from 1997-99 before spending time in the Marlins, Yankees and Tigers organizations. He hit .305 with six homers and 37 RBI with the Tigers in 2001, when he also spent time in the minors.
The Pirates moved to free up the money to acquire Simon last week by releasing outfielder Armando Rios, who made $925,000 last season and also was arbitration-eligible.
The left handed-hitting Simon spent about half last season as the Tigers' designated hitter and is only a .245 career hitter against left-handers, and is expected to platoon at first base with Kevin Young or Craig Wilson.
Young, in the final year of a contract that will pay him $6.5 million next season, was one of the NL's least-productive first basemen with a .246 average, 16 homers and 51 RBI in 468 at-bats last season.
Young was a consistent run producer from 1997 to 2000, driving in 214 runs in 1998 and 1999. But he has struggled the last two seasons on sore knees, hitting .232 with 65 RBI in 449 at-bats in 2001. He had additional knee surgery as soon as the season ended.
Partly because of Young's struggles at what is expected to be a run-producing position, the Pirates have had one of the NL's weakest offenses since moving into PNC Park in 2001. They were 15th in runs scored and last in slugging percentage last season.
The Pirates acquired Burnside with reliever Mike Fetters from Los Angeles for left-hander Terry Mulholland in July 2001. Burnside, 25, was 6-9 with a 4.55 ERA at Double-A Altoona last season.
The other two prospects in the trade, first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, likely will be identified during the winter meetings in mid-December.