Reds swap Kearns to Nats for Clayton, pitchers

CINCINNATI -- Worried their rickety bullpen was dragging
them out of playoff contention, the Cincinnati Reds swung an
eight-player trade with the Washington Nationals on Thursday, getting relievers
Gary Majewski and Bill Bray but giving up two everyday players.

The Reds parted with right fielder Austin Kearns and shortstop
Felipe Lopez, hoping to shore up one of the majors' worst bullpens.

"We paid a steep price," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky
said. "I'm sure this will be a controversial trade. I know a lot
of people will be leaving nasty messages on my voicemail, and I'll
have some who think it's great."

Besides the right-handed Majewski and lefty Bray, the Reds
acquired shortstop Royce Clayton, infielder Brendan Harris and
pitching prospect Daryl Thompson. The 36-year-old Clayton, will
take over at shortstop for Lopez, who made his first All-Star team
last year.

Cincinnati returned from the All-Star break trailing St. Louis
by four games in the NL Central. The Reds are also in the middle of
the wild-card race.

The Reds also gave up reliever Ryan Wagner, a first-round draft
pick in 2003. Nationals general manager Jim Bowden acquired all
three players when he ran the Reds.

"Philosophically, we believe that when you have a chance to
trade a middle reliever for an everyday player, that's helpful,"
Bowden said. "Over the long run, if you look at a player for the
next five to seven years, pitchers are more of a risk to injuries
than everyday players."

Outgoing Nationals president Tony Tavares, incoming president
Stan Kasten and the new ownership group approved the deal.

Bowden didn't rule out more moves by the Nationals, who are in
last place in the NL East.

"Do these deals turn this team around? Of course not," Bowden
said. "But it heads us in the right direction."

The deal also signals a new day in Cincinnati, which has traded
away players for prospects and moved cautiously since Bowden was
fired during the 2003 season. New owner Bob Castellini took over in
January and promised to be aggressive.

The Reds have had five consecutive losing seasons, their deepest
slump in 50 years. Piece by piece, Krivsky has overhauled the
roster since being hired in February.

Most of the moves have worked. The Reds took over first place in
the NL Central on May 8, making them one of the league's biggest

A 1-8 slide before the All-Star break left them foundering at
45-44, and underscored the need to do something about the bullpen.

A week ago, the Reds sent a minor leaguer to Seattle for
Eddie Guardado, a former All-Star closer who moves back into the role in
Cincinnati. Krivsky and Bowden first discussed their deal last
Friday, and it quickly grew into the eight-player package.

"I personally love it," Reds utility player Ryan Freel said.
"I'm not knocking Kearns and Lopez, but we all knew that most of
the problem has been with the bullpen."

Kearns, one of the team's building blocks during Bowden's
11-year run in Cincinnati, was soaking in a whirlpool Thursday when
he got called into the manager's office for a private meeting.

"These guys, since the first day they were here, they're not
afraid to make a move," Kearns said. "So we'll see how it works.

"I'm not surprised something was done because things are going
in the right direction here."

The 26-year-old Majewski was 3-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 46 games. He
led the Nationals with 79 appearances last season and had a 2.93.