By Josh Boyd
January 14, 2002
The A’s finally found a replacement for departed free agent Jason Giambi, and the Rangers completed their rotation as the two American League West rivals completed a six-player deal on Monday.
Oakland acquired first baseman Carlos Pena and lefthanded reliever Mike Venafro for lefthander Mario Ramos, outfielder Ryan Ludwick, first baseman Jason Hart and catcher Gerald Laird.
After a slow start last season at Triple-A Oklahoma, Pena, 23, finished with a flourish, hitting .288-23-74. He was rated the Rangers No. 1 prospect following a 2000 campaign, in which he hit .299-28-105. He was working out in right field for Licey in the Dominican Republic this winter, but his path was seemingly blocked when the Rangers signed free agent Juan Gonzalez.
Ramos, who would have ranked as the A’s top prospect this season, was expected to compete with Hiljus for the fifth spot in the A’s rotation behind Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Cory Lidle. The 24-year-old went 16-4, 3.12 between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento last season.
Ludwick, 23, was rated the No. 2 prospect after hitting .269-25-96 at Midland. He was regarded as the best defensive outfielder in the A¹s system.
Hart, 24, is coming off of a disappointing year after emerging as a power-hitting prospect in 2000. He hit .247-19-75 at Sacramento last year. He was slated for a return trip to Triple-A, and appears destined for Oklahoma due to Rafael Palmeiro’s presence at first base–the main reason Pena became expendable. Hart launched 30 home runs in Midland in 2000.
Laird, 22, has been slowed by injuries, but he’s an athletic catcher who the A’s felt has significant offensive potential. An offseason weight program has helped him build upper-body strength to increase his durability. He has a good throwing arm, good hands behind the plate and surprising speed for a catcher –enough that he has visions of becoming a leadoff hitter.
Contributing: Casey Tefertiller