By John Manuel
December 15, 2004
Mark Ellis’ shoulder injury kept him out of the Oakland lineup in 2004, and the Athletics never got comfortable at second base. They hope they filled that hole Wednesday, getting Keith Ginter from Milwaukee for minor league outfielder Nelson Cruz and righthander Justin Lehr. It was the Brewers’ third deal in five days, as they sent Dan Kolb to Atlanta on Saturday and acquired Carlos Lee from the White Sox on Monday.
Ginter, 28, was a semiregular for the Brewers in 2004, splitting time between second and third base. If Ellis is ready for Opening Day, Ginter still can help the A’s by backing up both of those positions. Ginter hit .262/.333/.479 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs in 113 games in 2004. He has adopted a power hitter’s approach that leaves him vulnerable to offspeed stuff away. As a baserunner and a defender, he’s just adequate. Ginter signed a three-year, $1.925 million contract last spring and is owed
$450,000 in 2005 and $1.025 in 2006. He’s a career .257/.344/.448 hitter with 35 homers and 115 RBIs in 274 games.
Cruz, 24, signed with the Mets out of the Dominican Republic in 1998 and was traded to Oakland for Jorge Velandia two years later. He had a breakthrough season in 2004, hitting .326/.390/.562 with 26 homers, 100 RBIs and 16 steals in 137 games at the high Class A, Double-A and Triple-A levels. Cruz has five-tool talent and has started to hit for average as he improves his control of the strike zone. He has power to all fields and runs well. His strong arm is well suited for right field. In 512 career games in the minors, he has batted .287/.349/.472 with 70 homers, 351 RBIs and 87 steals.
Lehr, 27, was a 1999 eighth-round pick out of Southern California. He spent his first three years in college as a catcher at UC Santa Barbara before transferring and becoming the Trojans’ No. 2 starter behind Barry Zito. Lehr made the majors for the first time in 2004, going 1-1, 5.23 in 27 games. He gave up 35 hits (three homers) and 14 walks while striking out 16 in 33 innings. At Triple-A Sacramento, he went 4-2, 2.65 with 13 saves in 32 appearances. Lehr had control problems in the majors, but he has a 93-95 mph fastball and a decent slider.