Looking for a third baseman since Bill Mueller had knee surgery in May, the Dodgers found one on Friday. They acquired Wilson Betemit from the Braves for Danys Baez, Willy Aybar and cash considerations.
Betemit, who was traded on his 26th birthday, was pursued by several teams looking for an upgrade at the hot corner. With Chipper Jones at third base in Atlanta, Betemit served as a utilityman and hit .281/.344/.497 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 88 games this season. A switch-hitter, he’s much more effective from the left side, showing the ability to hit for average with at least gap power. His speed and range are just so-so, but he has good hands and a strong arm. Betemit likely won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2008 season. He’s a career .281/.341/.432 hitter with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 233 games.
The Braves continue to try to upgrade their bullpen, and Baez likely will serve as their primary setup man to newly acquired closer Bob Wickman. Acquired by the Dodgers in a January deal with the Devil Rays, Baez has gone 5-5, 4.35 with in 46 appearances this season. The 28-year-old righthander has converted just nine of 16 save opportunities this season, and he also has six holds. In 50 innings, he has a 29-11 K-BB ratio, .283 opponent average and three homers allowed. Baez’ best pitch is his 92-96 mph fastball, and he also uses a splitter and a hard breaking ball. He’s making $4 million in 2006, the last season in a three-year, $9.5 million contract, and won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2007. The Dodgers will pay the remainder of his salary this season. Baez has a career record of 31-36, 3.76 with 111 saves in 330 games.
Aybar, 23, set a then-record for Dominicans when he signed for $1.4 million in 2000. He batted .326 in a September callup last year, but didn’t hit well enough to keep the third-base job after Mueller got hurt. Aybar has hit .250/.356/.414 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 43 games this season. The older brother of prime Angels shortstop prospect Erick Aybar, Willy is an offensive-minded player who doesn’t profile perfectly at any position. He has a line-drive bat, strong arm and sound hands, but he lacks the range for second base and the home run power for third. Likely to fill Betemit’s former utility role in Atlanta, Aybar won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2008 season at the earliest. He has hit .280/.394/.430 with four homers and 32 RBIs in 69 big league games.