Now that the top free agents have signed, baseball's trade mart is open for business.
Royce Clayton and Fernando Tatis, traded for each other 2 1/2 years ago, were dealt separately Thursday in swaps announced five minutes apart.
Clearing room at shortstop for Alex Rodriguez, the Texas Rangers sent Clayton to the Chicago White Sox for right-handed pitchers Aaron Myette and Brian Schmack.
St. Louis dealt Tatis and right-hander Britt Reames to the Montreal Expos, who sent right-hander Dustin Hermanson and left-hander Steve Kline to the Cardinals.
"Once I found out I was traded to the White Sox, I was basically overwhelmed," Clayton said. "I was very positive about going to a place where I could win. That was my first and foremost concern."
The Rangers, who sent Tatis, pitcher Darren Oliver and outfielder Mark Little to St. Louis for Clayton and pitcher Todd Stottlemyre on July 31, 1998, agreed Monday to give Rodriguez a record $252 million, 10-year contract. It took Melvin three more days to take care of the displaced Clayton.
"I know I have a lot of good years left at shortstop," Clayton said. "I know I can help. Doug extended me the courtesy of trading me to the White Sox to secure their infield."
Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said the team is better served by dealing in trades than with free agents.
"We've had better success with that," Jocketty said. "I think we gave up some value here, but I think the return that we get is significant."
Also Thursday, right-hander Curt Schilling and Arizona agreed to a $32 million, three-year extension through 2004; the Chicago Cubs announced their $5 million, two-year contract with closer Tom Gordon; reliever Mike Jackson agreed to a $250,000, one-year contract with the Houston Astros; right-hander Brian Boehringer agreed to a minor league contract with the New York Yankees; and left-hander Matt Whisenant agreed to a minor league contract with Los Angeles.
Colorado designated Butch Huskey for assignment to open roster space for Ron Gant, signed last weekend to a $2.05 million, one-year deal. And Seattle claimed infielder Mike Caruso off waivers from the White Sox; Caruso, 23, hit .246 with 38 runs and 26 RBIs in 88 games last season for Triple-A Charlotte after hitting a combined .278 with seven homers and 90 RBIs for the White Sox in 1998 and 1999.
In late deals Wednesday, Atlanta agreed to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with infielder Rico Brogna, down from $4.2 million this year, and a minor league contract with infielder Kurt Abbott, who would get a $600,000, one-year deal if he makes Atlanta's roster.
For Clayton, Texas got Myette, a 23-year-old who went 5-5 with a 4.35 ERA this year in 19 games, all but one as a starter, for Triple-A Charlotte.
The 27-year-old Schmack has spent six years in the minors. He was 11-7 with a 2.78 ERA and one save in 51 relief appearances last season at Charlotte.
With its additions, St. Louis has six experienced starters -- Darryl Kile, Garrett Stephenson, Andy Benes, Rick Ankiel, Matt Morris and Hermanson -- plus a solid bullpen, anchored by closer Dave Veres, Mike Timlin and Kline.
Hermanson, 27, was 12-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 30 starts and eight relief appearances with the Expos last season. He has a career 47-48 record and 4.17 ERA in 170 games, 122 as a starter.
Hermanson won a career-high 14 games in 1998 with a 3.13 ERA. He struck out 559 batters in 805 career innings, walking 292.
Kline had 14 saves in 18 chances while serving as the Expos' closer for three months this year. He went 1-5 with a 3.50 ERA in 83 games, leaving his career record at 15-19 with a 3.84 ERA.
"This is a guy we've been searching for for years," Jocketty said. "He's really the first left-hander we've gotten under 30 years of age -- actually under the age of 40 -- since I've been here."
Following offseason shoulder surgery, Schilling struggled to an 11-12 record and a 3.81 ERA, going 5-6 with a 3.69 ERA for Arizona.
"I know that they traded for me to win a pennant, and I didn't hold up my end of the bargain," Schilling said. "I have a lot of pride. This year and the next three years, I will do whatever it is within my ability to make it right and make us champions."
Jackson, a 35-year-old right-hander, missed the entire 2000 season following shoulder surgery.
"Mike's a leader," Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "He's not bashful about being vocal. I think he's going to help the attitude and competitiveness of our bullpen."
If Jackson is added to the opening day roster, his base salary would increase to $750,000. He could earn an addition $4.3 million in bonuses.
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