NEW YORK -- Pitchers Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano were
traded to the New York Mets on Friday, boosting a rotation that had
relied all season on three aging starters.
A day before the non-waiver trading deadline, the Mets got busy
in a big way -- and took a huge gamble.
To get Zambrano and minor league pitcher Bartolome Fortunato
from Tampa Bay, the Mets sent their best pitching prospect -- Scott
Kazmir -- and minor league pitcher Jose Diaz to the Devil Rays.
"In my new home, they're waiting for me," Zambrano said before
the Devil Rays hosted Toronto. "I'm just going to go and do my 200
percent I can do there. I'll be happy to go there."
"All I can say, I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me.
I'm just waiting to get to New York," he said.
Devil Rays GM Chuck Lamar told ESPN Radio Friday night that he lamented giving up Zambrano, but felt Kazmir was too good to pass up.
"It was a good trade for us, and I think it was a heck of a trade for the New York Mets," Lamar said. "Victor Zambrano has been here a long time. ... You hate to give him up but we've spent a lot of time and effort and money of getting a nucleus of our young position players. We knew this day was coming that we needed to start getting our hands on some pitching that can truly beat the Red Sox and Yankees in this division, and we think Scott Kazmir has that kind of ability."
For Benson, eligible for free agency after this season, and
minor league infielder Jeff Keppinger, the Mets traded infielder Ty
Wigginton, highly touted minor league pitcher Matt Peterson and
infielder Jose Bautista to the Pirates. The Mets got Bautista
earlier in the day from Kansas City for minor league catcher Justin
"It's kind of a relief just to get it over with. It's been a
tough day," Benson said before the Pirates played at Miller Park.
"If there was a team I'd be excited to go to, it would be them.
The Mets sent a private plane to Milwaukee to bring Benson to
Atlanta, and he planned to start Saturday night against the Braves.
He would be facing Atlanta for the third straight time.
"We're getting younger and transforming our roster that a year
ago or two years ago was one of the oldest in baseball," Mets
general manager Jim Duquette said. "Both of these pitchers are 29
years old, they still have a lot of mileage ahead of them,
The Mets, led by starters Al Leiter, Tom Glavine and Steve
Trachsel, entered the day trailing the Braves by six games in the
NL East. New York, which started a weekend series in Atlanta, also
are in the wild-card race.
Zambrano, who turns 29 next week, is 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA. The
right-hander also is 10-1 lifetime in interleague play, having
pitched well against NL teams.
Kazmir was the Mets' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, and was
pitching at Double-A Binghamton. He has struck out 259 batters in
203 1-3 innings during his minor league career.
"I think we're getting one of the fine left-handed pitching
prospects in baseball. I won't be surprised if he's not here come
September," Tampa Bay general manager Chuck LaMar said.
"We get our hands on a quality left-hander and have some
financial flexibility, too," he said. "It's a move that's not
easy to make at anytime, but we felt like it was the right time."
Zambrano was eligible for salary arbitration after this season.
"He's pitched well enough to deserve what the system says he's
going to get paid," LaMar said. "He's arguably the best pitcher
this organization ever had, somebody who could still improve at the
major league level. But if not, he has proven he's an outstanding
major league pitcher. He's had great success and I think that
success will continue."
Benson, 29, is 8-8 with a 4.22 ERA. The top pick in the 1996
draft has had injury problems, but the Mets hope he can give them a
"He's certainly a talented guy who came into the industry with
high expectations and they probably didn't play out the way
everybody wanted it to," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield
said. "But Kris had a variety of injuries, too, and he's pitched
well this year and pitched very well in the recent past."
Littlefield said Peterson joins the organization with a lot of
potential, as did Benson.
"He's a talented guy and he's performed well up to this point.
But, in general, we're glad to get another strong-looking
right-armed pitcher in the system," he said.
Wigginton was in the Mets' original starting lineup Friday
night, playing second base and batting sixth. He was hitting .285
with 12 home runs and 42 RBIs.
"I guess I blocked it out the whole time. I never expected a
deal would go down," he said. "You hear all the talk every year.
I guess all I could think about was going out and playing the game
hard and showing respect for the game of baseball."
Wigginton had a mixed reaction to the trade.
"Excited. At the same time, I'm kind of sad," he said. "I
felt we had a good thing going over here. In the long run it looks
like it will be a better situation for me on a personal side over