Astros Trade Hampton To Mets

Mike Hampton, who led the National League with 22 wins last season, was acquired by the New York Mets from the Houston Astros today.

Outfielder Derek Bell also goes to the Mets, who sent Houston outfielder Roger Cedeno, rookie right-hander Octavio Dotel and minor league left-hander Kyle Kessel.

"It's a little bit overwhelming, a little bit shocking," Hampton said. "It seems like it all happened rather quickly."

Hampton, a left-hander, was 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA last season and finished 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 general manager 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). His 177 strikeouts were ninth in the league.

"He's one competitive, nasty pitcher," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.

    The Mets And Astros Made
    A Major Trade Thursday.(AP)
  • AP's Marv Schneider
  • Mets' GM Steve Phillips
  • The Mets had been searching for an ace to join a staff that includes Al Leiter, Rick Reed, Masato Yoshii and Bobby Jones. New York made no effort to re-sign Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers, who became free agents.

    Hampton has one year left on his contract at $5.75 million and the Astros tried to sign him to a multiyear deal after the season.

    But Houston, which has wothree straight NL Central titles, concluded Hampton wanted more than the team could afford and said it would explore a trade.

    "It hit us between the eyes. I was shocked at his stance," Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. "I didn't see it coming and in my mind it forced our hand."

    Bell lost his starting job with the Astros by the end of the season after hitting only .236 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs, and manager Larry Dierker became disenchanted with him. In 1998, Bell hit .314 with 22 homers and 108 RBIs.

    He gets $5 million next year and is eligible for free agency after the season.

    "Christmas came early for me," he said. "I'm very happy. I told my agent I'm going to run, I'm so excited. The first thing that comes to my mind is I have a chance to be in the World Series. In this big old lineup I'm in, I'm the small guy."

    In April 1994, when playing with San Diego in New York, Bell and teammate Scott Sanders were arrested, with Bell accused of offering an undercover female police officer $20 for oral sex. The charges were dismissed that October as legally "insufficient."

    Cedeno and Dotel had been offered by the Mets to Seattle earlier this month in talks involving Ken Griffey Jr. But the proposed trade collapsed when Griffey told the Mariners he would use his right to block all deals unless Seattle sent him to Cincinnati.

    Cedeno hit .313 with four homers, 36 RBIs and 66 steals in 83 chances. He is eligible for salary arbitration.

    "Cedeno is almost a perfect fit for us," Dierker said. "We have more ground to cover in center field in the new stadium. We felt we needed a real burner in center to cover the ground."

    Dotel is a highly regarded prospect who throws hard. In his first season in the majors in 1999, he was 8-3 with a 5.38 ERA in 14 starts and five relief appearances, striking out 85 in 85 1-3 innings.

    "Dotel is a young dominating pitcher," Hunsicker said. "Because of his talent and his power arm he was pushed rather aggressively through the Mets' system and thrown into a pressure packed pennant race this season in a pressure city. This kid gave us an exciting look at what we can expect."

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