In a surprising trade they hope will put them back in the World Series for the first time since 1986, the Mets acquired 22-game winner Mike Hampton from the Astros yesterday along with slumping OF Derek Bell.
In exchange, the Mets sent Houston OF Roger Cedeno, rookie RHP Octavio Dotel and minor league LHP Kyle Kessel.
"It's a little bit overwhelming, a little bit shocking," Hampton said.
The 27-year-old left-hander was 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA last season, winning 11 straight decisions and finishing second to Arizona's Randy Johnson in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
"We've waited for this opportunity for a long time to secure a starter of Mike Hampton's ilk," Mets GM Steve Phillips said. "We had to step up and do this."
Hampton was second in the majors in wins, one behind Boston's Pedro Martinez (23-4) and third in the NL in ERA behind Johnson (2.48) and Atlanta's Kevin Millwood (2.68). Hampton has one year left on his contract at $5.75 million and the Astros tried unsuccessfully to sign him to a multiyear deal after the season.
* MISSING: A week after flooding ravaged the Venezuelan countryside, the Phillies still have been unable to locate a 16-year-old outfield prospect, as well as one of their part-time scouts. Henry Brito, a Venezuelan prospect signed in March, and Jesus Cartagena, who has scouted for the Phillies for two years, are both missing in the La Guaira area, about 15 miles east of Caracas.
* DEALS: Giants GM Brian Sabean was given a contract extension that runs through the 2002 season. . . . The Red Sox agreed to a two-year contract with Korean P Sang Hoon Lee, 28, who has won the most valuable player and top relief pitcher honors in his native country. . . . OF Ruben Sierra, who hasn't played in the major leagues since May 1998, agreed to a minor league contract with the Indians and was invited to spring training.