Marlins Trade Piazza To Mets

Mike Piazza has another new home -- and this one should last for more than a week.

The Florida Marlins traded Piazza to the New York Mets on Friday, just seven days after getting the All-Star catcher from his longtime team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I have gone from a player who thought he would spend his whole career with one organization to a player who's been with three organizations in a week," Piazza said in Miami.

"I just want get in one place for more than a week and settle down," Piazza said."I'll be with three teams in a week. Isn't that bizarre? It's like rotisserie baseball."

The World Series champion Marlins, continuing to pare their payroll, get outfielder Preston Wilson, who made his major league debut May 7, and highly rated pitching prospect Ed Yarnall. Florida also got a player to be named, which will be pitcher Geoff Goetz, a Marlins source said on the condition of anonymity.

The Mets, lagging far behind the Yankees in both marquee players and attendance, managed to upstage their crosstown rivals for at least one day.

"Certainly, we are ecstatic," Mets general manager Steve Phillips said."He will instantly give credibility to the lineup and he will instantly give credibility to Mets fans that the organization is committed to making the playoffs and advancing toward the World Series."

Piazza, 29, is eligible for free agency after this season. He has a .331 career average with 177 homers and 568 RBIs, and is batting .281 this year with nine homers and 35 RBIs.

It was not immediately clear if the Mets were interested in signing Piazza to a long-term deal or would allow him to leave when his $15 million, two-year contract expires at the end of the season.

"The contract is not something we're going to get concerned with right now," Phillips said.

Said Piazza:"Who knows? I'm not really in a position to speculate on my future after this season."

"I'm very excited to be with the Mets and playing in New York City," he said."I'm enthusiastic about helping the Mets get into the playoffs any way I can."

Piazza said he planned to join the Mets at Shea Stadium on Saturday for their game against Milwaukee.

"This town is ready and waiting for Mike," Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon said."They love him already and they'll love him even more."

"Mike Piazza is the kind of player, like Willie Mays, like Mickey Mantle, the kind of player that will take to this town. He's a New York kind of guy," he said.

Earlier this week, Phillips said Piazza was not a good fit for the Mets, out of the playoffs since 1988. But Phillips changed his mind, he said, when he found out three-four other big trades the Mets had in the works would not be affected by a deal for Piazza.

Phillips, who had told injured catcher Todd Hundley the Mets were not inerested in Piazza, called him this week to say a deal might occur.

"I don't have any problems with this," said Hundley, a backup to Piazza on the last two NL All-Star teams."If he can help put a World Series ring on my finger, more power to him."

The deal came exactly one week after Piazza was traded from the Dodgers to the Marlins as part of a blockbuster seven-player deal. The five-time All-Star was traded by Los Angeles after the Dodgers refused his demand for a seven-year contract extension.

Piazza wound up playing just five games with the Marlins, going 5-for-18 (.278) with no homers and five RBIs. Florida paid just $309,392 of his $8 million salary.

"For us, it ended up happening very quickly," Marlins GM Dave Dombrowski said. "When we acquired Mike Piazza's contract, we weren't sure how soon it would happen."

The Mets had been searching for a catcher since Hundley had a ligament in his right elbow replaced Sept. 26. He expects to return in the second half of this season, but it remains unclear when he will be able to resume catching.

The Chicago Cubs, the Yankees, Baltimore and St. Louis also talked seriously to the Marlins in the last week about Piazza, sources close to the deal said, speaking on condition of anonymity. When it came time to make a trade Friday, it was between the Mets and Cubs, a source said.

"We've been pretty much consumed with conversations the last week," Dombrowski said.

Yarnall, Wilson and Goetz were the second-, third- and fourth-best big-league prospects in the Mets organization, according to Baseball America.

Wilson is the stepson of Mookie Wilson, a former Mets star and now the team's first-base coach. Yarnall is a 22-year-old left-hander who is 7-0 with a 0.39 ERA this season at Double-A Binghamton of the Eastern League. Goetz, a 19-year-old left-hander, was the sixth player picked overall in the 1997 draft.

Wilson, the ninth overall pick in the 1992 draft, was with the Mets for eight games this season, hitting .300 (six hits) with two doubles and two RBI and scoring three times before being returned to Class AAA Norfolk Tuesday. He was hitting .247 with a homer and nine RBI in 18 games for the Tides and was assigned to the Marlins' AAA team in Charlotte.

Yarnall is generally considered the Mets' best pitching prospect and ranked No. 60 in baseball's top 100 prospects by Baseball America. He was assigned to AA Portland.

Goetz, a Tampa native, was the sixth overall pick in the 1997 draft and throws a fastball consistently in the 95-mph range. He is 4-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 46 innings for the Class A Columbia, S.C., Bombers this season.

Florida already had traded 15 of the 25 players on its World Series championship roster last October. The Marlins' payroll, $53 million at the end of last season, was cut to $33 million by opening day, to $24 million last week. The latest deal lowers it to $16 million, third-lowest ithe majors. Only Montreal ($9 million) and Pittsburgh ($13 million) are lower.

Piazza was sent to Florida along with third baseman Todd Zeile last Friday for Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson, Jim Eisenreich and Manuel Barrios.

It also was uncertain if the Marlins would try to deal Zeile.

"When we got here, Mike and I both knew something else was inevitable," said Zeile, adding he was"disappointed" not to be part of the trade, too.

New York began the day second in the NL East at 23-20, nine games behind the Atlanta Braves. Florida was 15-32, 19 games behind Atlanta.

After the Mets finish playing Milwaukee at Shea Stadium, they begin a series in Miami on Tuesday.

"I guess I'll just pack a weekend bag for New York," Piazza said.

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