Just a day after trading one of their best starting pitchers and declaring they will look to leave Miami, the Florida Marlins dumped their most explosive hitter, trading first baseman Carlos Delgado to the New York Mets for first baseman Mike Jacobs and New York's top minor league pitcher, Yusmeiro Petit.
The Marlins called Delgado and his agent David Sloane yesterday to tell them of the deal involving the slugger who was supposed to be the cornerstone of the National League East's most talented team. The Marlins will also send an undetermined amount of cash, believed to be about $7 million, to offset Delgado's contract.
Just last year the Marlins stunned baseball by signing Delgado -- then the prize of free agency -- to a four-year, $52 million contract. But that was when the team believed it was getting a new stadium, next to the Orange Bowl, with help from the city of Miami. The stadium deal, along with others, fell through this summer. And after the owners' meetings in Milwaukee last week, the Marlins decided to follow through on a long-rumored salary dump and look for a new home.
Yesterday the team said Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas, which fell well short in their bids for the Montreal Expos (who moved to Washington), are possible suitors.
The immediate ramifications for the National League East are tremendous. By sending pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston on Monday night and trading Delgado today, they have all but destroyed the team many in baseball thought was the best last season. Already, Florida had said it would not try to re-sign one of its other top pitchers, A.J. Burnett, and allowed right fielder Juan Encarnacion to leave via free agency.
What the Marlins have done, however, is lay the groundwork for a solid team in the future. The shortstop Florida acquired in the Beckett trade -- Hanley Ramirez -- is considered among the best prospects in baseball. Petit, 21, was 9-3 with a 2.92 ERA at the Mets' Class AA team in Binghamton (N.Y.). Jacobs hit .310 with 11 home runs and 23 RBI in 30 games with the Mets last year.
The Marlins have done this before. They dumped their best players after winning the World Series in 1997 in a similar stadium dispute and used the prospects they acquired to build the team that won the World Series in 2003.
The deal might also tip the balance of power in the East toward New York. The Mets now have Delgado to hit between outfielders Carlos Beltran and Cliff Floyd as well as third baseman David Wright. Yesterday they moved to bolster their bullpen by offering free agent closer Billy Wagner a deal in excess of $30 million.
Neither the Beckett nor the Delgado deals have been finalized as each requires approval from the commissioner's office. The approval might be held up with the Thanksgiving holiday, which could be a problem for Delgado. He is getting married Dec. 3 and will leave immediately on his honeymoon.
The Marlins are expected to continue dismantling their club by offering outfielder Juan Pierre, catcher Paul Lo Duca and perhaps even second baseman Luis Castillo up for bid.
-- Les Carpenter