By Jim Callis
July 11, 2002
The Expos weren’t able to add both Cliff Floyd and Ryan Dempster in a blockbuster trade that had been rumored for a week. But general manager Omar Minaya was able to pull off yet another significant deal, bringing former Montreal first-round pick Floyd back to Olympic Stadium on Thursday. The Marlins, who had just sent Dempster to the Reds, traded Floyd, infielder Wilton Guerrero, minor league righthander Claudio Vargas and cash to the Expos for top pitching prospects Justin Wayne and Donald Levinski, plus major league veterans Carl Pavano, Graeme Lloyd and Mike Mordecai.
Montreal, which survived an attempt at contraction in the offseason but remains a candidate after being purchased by Major League Baseball, continues to focus solely on the 2002 wild-card race while not worrying about the future. The Expos, who entered the day trailing the Diamondbacks by five games, aren’t allowed to add any payroll this year, which is why Pavano, Lloyd and Mordecai went to Florida to balance the salary impact for the remainder of 2002. The Marlins, who are trying to purge several players headed toward free agency and arbitration, are only concerned with Wayne and Levinski, who were drafted by the current Florida administration when it was in place in Montreal.
Floyd, 29, was the 14th overall pick in the 1991 draft and played his first four big league seasons with the Expos before they traded him to the Marlins for Dustin Hermanson in March 1997. Never able to stay healthy or live up to projections of stardom in Montreal, he was able to do so in Florida. After reaching the All-Star Game in 2001, he has been putting together a worthy encore, hitting .287-18-57 with 10 steals through 84 games. He’s showing more patience at the plate then ever before, as his 58 walks are one short of his career high and his .414 on-base percentage is his best ever. Though he’s 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he’s a quality athlete who can steal bases and play a solid left field. He’s making $6.5 million this year in the final season of a four-year, $19 million deal and he’ll become a free agent afterward.
Wayne, a 23-year-old righthander out of Stanford, was the fifth overall pick in 2000 and still holds the Expos record with a $2.95 million bonus. He has solid stuff across the board, throwing strikes with an 88-91 mph two-seam sinker, a changeup, a slider and a curveball. He has pitched very well the last two seasons at Double-A Harrisburg, going 9-2, 2.62 in 2001 and 5-2, 2.37 this year. In 31 starts and 191 innings in Double-A, he has permitted 161 hits and 66 walks while striking out 117. He may lack the overwhelming pitch to be a true frontline starter, but he has been a consistent winner wherever he has pitched.
There were rumors before the 2001 draft that Montreal would take Levinski sixth overall as a signability pick. Instead, the Expos got him in the second round and gave him a $825,000 bonus. He can’t officially be traded until the one-year anniversary of his signing on Aug. 4, but sources have confirmed he’ll be the player to be named. Levinski has better pure stuff than Wayne but doesn’t have the same command. Levinski can reach 95-96 mph with his four-seam fastball, hits 88-90 mph with his heavy two-seam sinker and also owns a plus curveball. He has been outstanding at low Class A Clinton this year, going 10-4, 2.50 in 17 starts. Midwest League hitters have batted just .191 against him, and he owns a 106-46 strikeout-walk ratio in 101 innings.
Vargas, 23, entered the year as one of the Marlins’ top pitching prospects but has lost some of his luster while getting pounded in Triple-A. He has touched 97 mph with his fastball and has flashed a plus curveball at times, but he has been lost in the Pacific Coast League, going 4-11, 6.72 in 17 games. Home runs have been a problem, as he has surrendered 18 in 76 innings.
The rest of the players in the deal were simply window dressing. Guerrero, 27, gets to rejoin his brother Vladimir in Montreal, bringing with him .244-0-4 numbers in 78 at-bats with the Reds before they included him in the Dempster trade. He has a career .287 average in 610 major league games, but he offers next to no power or on-base ability.
Pavano, a 26-year-old righthander, was the key player received by the Expos when they traded Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox in November 1997, but he was hurt throughout his career in Montreal. He went 3-8, 6.30 in 15 games with the Expos this year, dropping his career record to 24-35, 4.83 and prompting his demotion to Triple-A Ottawa. At his best, he’ll show a low-90s fastball as well as command of his slider and changeup.
Lloyd, a 35-year-old Australian lefty, signed an above-market three-year, $9 million contract with Montreal as a free agent in December 1999, then promptly missed the 2000 season with a torn labrum. He’s back throwing his mix of sinkers, cutters and sliders, but has gone 2-3, 5.87 with five saves in 41 appearances this year after a fine comeback in 2001. He has a 27-30, 3.88 record and 17 saves in 491 major league games.
Mordecai, a 34-year-old utilityman, hit just .203-0-4 in 74 at-bats with the Expos this year. He has better hands and is more adept defensively than Wilton Guerrero, but he’s not as good a hitter. Mordecai has .246-21-112 totals in 519 big league contests.