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Pirates Trade Martin To Padres

The San Diego Padres ended their search for a leadoff hitter Wednesday by acquiring left fielder Al Martin from the Pittsburgh Pirates for utilityman John Vander Wal and two minor leaguers.

The Pirates also get Triple-A reliever Jim Sak, who may compete for their closer's job, and right-hander Geraldo Padua, a borderline prospect.

By dealing Martin, the Pirates created a hole atop their batting order but opened a spot for Chad Hermansen, who hit 60 homers in Triple-A the last two seasons. He will play alongside Brian Giles in either right or center field, with Wil Cordero replacing Martin in left.

Martin becomes one of six Padres coming off season with 20 or more homers, joining Bret Boone, Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin, Ruben Rivera and Ed Sprague, who also played for Pittsburgh in 1999.

    Pittsburgh Pirates traded outfielder Al Martin to the San Diego Padres.(SportsLine) Real Audio

  • Padres' Al Martin
  • Padres' Al Martin
  • Padres' Al Martin
  • "This makes us a better club. Al Martin has had success hitting at the top and middle of the lineup and has always been a club leader and a tremendous clubhouse presence," said Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who made the deal at the urging of advisors Bill Bryk and Ted Simmons, who once worked in Pittsburgh.

    The 32-year-old Martin replaces Quilvio Veras atop the Padres' lineup, even though his .337 on-base percentage was low for a leadoff hitter.

    "I try to set the tone by being aggressive an getting on base," said Martin, who had a career-high 24 homers and 20 steals last year. "Runs are what wins games, not on-base percentage."

    At the Padres' camp in Peoria, Ariz., Tony Gwynn seemed surprised by the deal, saying, "I like Al Martin, but the thing is, is he a leadoff hitter? Al Martin is a guy who can help us, but I'm not sure he helps us in the leadoff spot."

    The Pirates also must find a new leadoff hitter, possibly catcher Jason Kendall or second baseman Warren Morris. But Kendall is returning from a serious ankle injury, and the Pirates may not want him running as much as most leadoff hitters do.

    This is the second successive spring t it was Martin who reworked his contract to make the deal go.

    Martin, who lives in Phoenix and was eager to play for a West Coast club, reduced his $3,275,000 salary to $1.75 million in exchange for a raise from $3.5 million to $5 million next year.

    The Padres traded Veras to Atlanta during the offseason because they feared he would command a big salary. Likewise, the Pirates sought to deAl Martin to save money, as the deal cuts their payroll close to their projected $32 million, even though they sent some money to San Diego.

    Giles said Martin's aggressive play and eagerness to counsel young players will be missed.

    "That took a little heart out of this ballclub," Giles said. "He's the kind of player everyone wants on a team."

    But it was clear Martin, the senior Pirates player in service time, didn't want to play in Pittsburgh any longer. He initially sought a trade midway through the 1998 season, and lobbied general manager Cam Bonifay for a trade again last season.

    Asked if the Pirates are getting fair market value for Martin, Bonifay said, "Any trade made as long as I'm the general manager will be a value-for-value trade."

    Vander Wal, who hit .272 with 41 RBIs last season and can play the outfield or first base, significantly upgrades what was one of baseball's worst benches. Pirates pinch-hitters hit .228 last season.

    But the 32-year-old Vander Wal wasn't especially happy with the deal. He has a house in San Diego and said recently he wanted to end his career there.

    The trade may lead to a reshuffling of the Pirates' outfield. Giles played center most of last season, but may return to right field. The 22-year-old Hermansen had problems defensively in the minors until being shifted to center.

    "We'll se if Chad Hermansen is ready to play," manager Gene Lamont said. "We need to see what Chad is or what he's going to be. We know he has great tools and he had two great years in Triple-A."

    Sak, 26, joins the competition to become the Pirates' closer. He was 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA and six saves in 23 games for Las Vegas and 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA and two saves in 18 games at Mobile. Padua, 23, was 12-7 with two Class A teams.

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