Ayala Gets Trade Wish, Sent to Mets

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 18, 2008

Clubhouse attendants carried boxes to the locker of Luis Ayala, the longest-tenured player with the Washington Nationals organization, dating back its days in Montreal. That designation ended yesterday morning when the Nationals dealt Ayala in a trade through waivers to the New York Mets for a player to be named, expected to be infielder Anderson Hernández.

Ayala is a free agent at the end of the season and it was unlikely he would return to the Nationals. He had requested a trade.

"We owed it to him," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "For us to try to get something back instead of him just walking with no compensation is a position we have to take."

Once details are completed with waivers, Hernández is expected to join the Nationals in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Nationals are also expected to promote right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada from Class AAA Columbus.

Hernández will provide depth to a middle infield depleted by injuries. He has not played with the Mets this season, although he opened 2006 as the starting second baseman when Nationals Manager Manny Acta coached third base for the Mets.

Known more for his defense at shortstop, Hernández, 25, is batting .138 in 87 career at-bats. He carries a .203 average with Class AAA New Orleans this season, and last season with New Orleans, Hernandez hit .301.

"He's a quality kid who can play short and second base, good defensive player," Acta said. "It gives us a lot of depth now, especially at shortstop."

More notable than the player coming, though, is the player leaving. Ayala, 30, was a dependable reliever for the Expos and Nationals before this season, when he started to struggle.

In Ayala's first three seasons (2003-05), he was 24-22 with a 2.75 ERA in 232 1/3 innings. In 2006, Ayala injured his right elbow in the World Baseball Classic and missed the season with the Nationals. He returned last year and had a 3.19 ERA in 42 1/3 innings.

The numbers quickly turned this season. Ayala is 1-8 with a 5.77 ERA in 57 2/3 innings.

Although his health has not been a problem, Ayala has dealt with personal issues. He mentioned a divorce, and was shot in his left arm while hunting during the offseason.

"I feel healthy all year," Ayala said. "When you don't have the . . . focus on your job, it's not like an excuse, but if you don't feel comfortable, something happens to you where you can't do your job."

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