|Monday, July 14
Updated: July 15, 5:40 PM ET
Burnitz obtained from Mets for 3 minor leaguers
LOS ANGELES -- Rickey Henderson is back in the big leagues.
The Mets, unloading another high-priced player, will receive three minor leaguers -- infielder Victor Diaz and right-handed relievers Joselo Diaz and Kole Strayhorn. New York will also pay part of Burnitz's remaining salary this season.
"We really like these two guys,'' Dodgers general manager Dan Evans said of Henderson and Burnitz. "I think these two guys can come in and improve our ballclub. We're not asking either one to do more than they're capable of doing.''
The 34-year-old Burnitz, who has played all three outfield positions, figures to replace Brian Jordan in left field. Jordan underwent season-ending knee surgery last week.
"Jeromy's offensive output throughout his career speaks for itself,'' Evans said. "I believe he will complement our offense well and add some power to the middle of our order.''
Henderson, who had been playing for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League, figures to be used mainly in a reserve role.
"With Rickey, we're gaining a player who understands what it takes to win at the major league level and we feel he will be a valuable addition to our team,'' Evans said.
Henderson is baseball's career leader in runs (2,288), stolen bases (1,403) and walks (2,179) and becomes the active leader in hits (3,040). He will be appearing in his 25th major league season and be playing with his ninth team.
Henderson hit .339 with a .591 slugging percentage for Newark. The 10-time major league All-Star was recently chosen the MVP of the Atlantic League All-Star game.
In 56 games with the Bears, Henderson had eight homers, 33 RBI, 52 runs scored and nine stolen bases.
The Dodgers (49-44) are in third place in the NL West, 7½ games behind first-place San Francisco, despite a 3.06 team ERA -- almost a half-run lower than any other team in the big leagues.
But they're last in the NL with a .244 batting average and 328 runs. Their 59 homers are the fewest in the majors.
"I'm just very excited to have an opportunity to play on a team with a shot at going to the playoffs,'' Burnitz said. "I've played on a lot of teams that have struggled record-wise. You can show up and do the job to the best of your abilities or you can shut it down.''
Eligible for free agency after this season, Burnitz had the right to block the deal because of a no-trade provision in his contract. Because of the trade, he gets $500,000 besides his $11.5 million salary.
Jim Duquette, New York's interim general manager, said the Mets will pay the $500,000 and the Dodgers will pick up $2 million of Burnitz's salary.
The left handed-hitting Burnitz is batting .274 with 18 doubles, 18 homers and 45 RBI in 234 at-bats. He broke a bone in his left hand April 22 when hit by a pitch from Houston closer Billy Wagner and was sidelined until May 23.
Burnitz began his career with the Mets in 1993. He was traded to Cleveland and later played with Milwaukee before returning to the Mets last season. He had a dreadful year, hitting .215 with 19 homers and 54 RBI in 154 games with 135 strikeouts.
Before that, Burnitz had five fine seasons with the Brewers. His best year was 1998, when he hit .263 with 38 homers and 125 RBI. He has 225 homers and 703 RBI in his career.
"Last year, I went through the worst year I've ever had as an everyday player,'' Burnitz said. ``The difference is now, I have a simple approach, which is to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it. I'm executing every at-bat better, basically having much more quality at-bats with a lot more consistency.''
The Mets, last in the NL East with a 40-53 record, began a rebuilding process on July 1 when they dealt second baseman Roberto Alomar to the Chicago White Sox.
Victor Diaz, 22, was hitting .291 with 10 homers and 54 RBI at Double-A Jacksonville. Joselo Diaz, 23, went 6-2 with a 3.12 ERA in 69 1-3 innings for Class-A Vero Beach and was recently promoted to Jacksonville. Strayhorn, 20, was 5-2 with seven saves and a 2.93 ERA in 30 games at Vero Beach.
"The core of our top prospects was not harmed on this one,'' Evans said.
The key player in the deal for the Mets was Victor Diaz, a two-time minor league batting champion.
"He's a guy that we've liked for a long time,'' Duquette said. "Our scouts really liked him. They highly recommended this kid. The kid can flat out hit. He projects to be an offensive second baseman.''
Duquette said he thought Victor Diaz could reach the majors by next season. Duquette also said Joselo Diaz, a converted catcher, features a fastball in the mid-90s and compared him with San Francisco setup man Felix Rodriguez.