Mets get Burgos from Royals for Bannister

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The first trade at baseball's
winter meetings was far from a blockbuster.

Brian Bannister Bannister

Ambiorix Burgos Burgos

In a swap of promising young pitchers, the New York Mets
acquired hard-throwing reliever Ambiorix Burgos from the Kansas
City Royals for starter Brian Bannister on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old Burgos saved 18 games for the Royals this year,
going 4-5 with a 5.52 ERA in 67 relief appearances and one start.
The right-hander bolsters a Mets bullpen that recently lost Chad
Bradford and Roberto Hernandez, free agents who signed elsewhere.

"It does give me a comfort zone after losing Bradford," New
York general manager Omar Minaya said. "It's hard for me to pass
up power arms."

Bannister, the son of former All-Star pitcher Floyd Bannister,
earned a spot in the Mets' rotation out of spring training. But the
rookie right-hander missed most of the season because of a right
hamstring injury and finished 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in eight games,
including six starts.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said his team's medical
staff was confident Bannister's leg is healthy. He said Bannister,
who turns 26 in February, has been pitching in Mexico this
offseason and doing fine.

"We look at him competing for a spot in our rotation," Moore
said. "There's a lot of things that go into a quality pitcher, and
one of them is makeup and intelligence -- and he certainly has

Burgos has impressive stuff, but he's been erratic. He struck
out 72 batters and walked 37 in 73 1/3 innings last season, his
second in the big leagues. His fastball reaches 95-100 mph.

"He's a young, talented, power arm -- and those guys are hard to
find. You can't develop them, you've got to sign them," Moore
said. "He's a guy with great upside and has potential to be a
closer someday. He's got overpowering stuff."

The Mets are still pursuing lefty Barry Zito, the top starter on
the free-agent market. But another player they sought got away when
infielder Julio Lugo and the Boston Red Sox reached a preliminary
agreement on a $36 million, four-year contract Tuesday.

The NL East champions were interested in Lugo to potentially
play second base, though they did re-sign 37-year-old Jose Valentin
at that spot. Lugo is expected to start at shortstop in Boston.

"I've been after Julio for a while," Minaya said. "The reason
I signed Valentin was I needed to protect myself early on."

The GM also said he wasn't looking very closely at any other
free-agent second basemen.

"We thought he was the one guy," Minaya explained.

Howard Johnson hired to coach first
The Mets hired former All-Star third baseman Howard Johnson as their
new first base coach. Sandy Alomar Sr. moves from first base to
third to replace Manny Acta, the Washington Nationals' new manager.
Johnson spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for the
Mets' Triple-A affiliate.