For Jack Wilson, the day started with him innocently headed to AT&T Park in San Francisco for what he thought was another game with the Pittsburgh Pirates, his team since 2001.
Wilson’s day ended with him getting on a plane with his new team, the Mariners, for a flight to Texas, where today he’ll assume his new position as the M’s everyday shortstop.
In between, Wilson gave an emotional goodbye to his Pirates teammates in San Francisco, flew to Seattle, and arrived at Safeco Field in the seventh inning, just as Ken Griffey Jr. was hitting the winning, two-run double.
“I was pretty pumped,” Wilson said. “It was a pretty good first impression.”
Everything changed with the phone call Wilson received in the cab to the ballpark in San Francisco from Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik, informing him he had been traded to the Mariners.
The Mariners also received talented but erratic pitcher Ian Snell from the Pirates in the seven-player trade.
The M’s gave up Jeff Clement, whom they once envisioned as their catcher of the future, as well as shortstop Ronny Cedeno and three Class A pitchers – right-handers Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic.
In a separate trade, the Mariners parted with another formerly touted prospect, outfielder Wladimir Balentien, sending him to Cincinnati for right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel.
Manuel will join Triple-A Tacoma. Snell, recently demoted to Triple-A by the Pirates, is expected to start out with Tacoma as well, though he will most likely be in the Mariners’ rotation soon.
“Maybe this guy is somewhat of a reclamation project,” Zduriencik said. “We’re hoping we can help resurrect his career.”
“Ian’s got some stuff, man,” Wilson said. “He can pitch, bottom line. For him, a new atmosphere is going to be key to his success.”
Wilson, meanwhile, will replace Cedeno – who replaced Yuniesky Betancourt – as the Mariners’ everyday shortstop.
“Some of the questions we might have at shortstop, we’ve answered them,” Zduriencik said. “If we can get Ian back on track, he’s a talented pitcher we can add to our major league club.”
For a team many had pegged as leaning toward a “seller” status as Friday’s trade deadline approached, the Mariners went the opposite direction in their first salvo.
“The hardest thing is to try to add without subtracting,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “It’s not an easy task. To be able to get a shortstop of this caliber obviously makes us better.”
Zduriencik said it’s risky to give up three young arms, but added, “You have a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher with three years of major league experience, and a former All-Star shortstop that is arguably one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, for players that are yet to be proven.”
Clement, 25, was the No. 3 overall pick of the 2005 draft. But he has had knee issues that hampered his progress as catcher. In 75 games with the Mariners, Clement had a .237 average and .309 on-base percentage, compared to .286 mark and .374 on-base in the minors.
The Pirates reportedly will use him as a catcher and first baseman.
The word out of Pittsburgh is that the Mariners are on the hook for only $400,000 each for the remainder of Wilson’s and Snell’s 2009 contracts. Wilson, 31, is in the final year of a three-year, $20.2 million deal that pays him $7.25 million this season. He has an $8.4 million option for 2010 with a $600,000 buyout.
Snell is making $3 million in the second year of a three-year, $8.6-million contract. He’s owed $4.25 million next year, with a $6.75-million club option for 2011, and a $9.25-million club option for 2012.
According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates are paying Seattle $3,308,702.19 as part of the trade.
Zduriencik said no decision has been made on Wilson’s option, and he deflected talk of a contract extension – Wilson was unable to reach one with the Pirates in recent days, leading to the trade.
“Obviously, we’ll see how Jack likes it here,” Zduriencik said. “I’d like to think he’ll be here for a lengthy period of time.”
Wilson is hitting .267 with four homers, 18 doubles and 31 runs batted in this season for the Pirates.
“I’ve loved being in Pittsburgh and being with my teammates over the years, but playing meaningful games in July, August, September is something I haven’t had before,” Wilson said. “So that’s what I’m really excited about coming here.”
Snell had a checkered career in Pittsburgh. He was regarded as one of the rising young pitchers in the National League when he won 23 games in 2006-07, and signed the long-term deal last year – one that the Pirates have since said they regret.
He dropped to 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA last year, and was 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA this year when he admitted to having bouts of depression and reportedly requested that the Pirates send him to the minors.
Since joining Triple-A Indianapolis, Snell has excelled, compiling a 0.96 ERA in six starts, while striking out 47 in 371/3 innings. Manuel, acquired in the Balentien trade, was in the majors with the Reds. The 26-year-old right-hander had appeared in three games in relief without giving up a run in 41/3 innings.
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