Reds make late push, add Estes

By Jim Callis

August 15, 2002

Shortly after suffering their fifth straight loss and dropping nine games behind the Dodgers in the National League wild-card chase, the Mets traded Shawn Estes to the Reds on Thursday. Cincinnati, which trails the Cardinals by 4½ games in the NL Central and is six back for the wild card, gave New York two minor leaguers (lefthander Pedro Feliciano and outfielder Elvin Andujar) and two players to be named. The Mets also will pick up the bulk of the $1.5 million remaining on Estes’ $6.2 million salary for 2002.

Estes joins Ryan Dempster and Brian Moehler as starters acquired by the Reds this summer. A 29-year-old lefthander, Estes is having one of the worst seasons of his eight-year big league career after being traded from San Francisco to New York for Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Desi Relaford last December. He has gone 4-9, 4.55 in 23 starts, allowing 133 hits and 66 walks while striking out 92 in 132 innings. He has won just one of his last 10 starts, posting four losses and a 4.76 ERA over that span. Estes’ fastball used to be a plus pitch but now is merely average, though his curveball still has sharp break to it. At times, he has difficulty getting his curve called for strikes. He also throws a sinking changeup. Estes, who has a career 68-59, 4.29 record in 183 games, will become a free agent after the season. He was an all-star in 1997, his best year, when he went 19-5, 3.19 for the Giants.

Feliciano, 25, was drafted in the 31st round out of a Puerto Rican high school by the Dodgers in 1995 and signed with the Reds as a six-year minor league free agent last offseason. He doesn’t have a standout pitch and relies on mixing his 88-91 fastball, slider, curveball and changeup to succeed. He won the Southern League all-star game earlier this year and has gone 3-2, 2.76 in 48 games between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. Feliciano was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk.

Andujar, 22, had his age revised up a year in the offseason. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1999, he was an all-star in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year and has batted .286-5-20 in 40 games at Rookie-level Billings this season. His raw power is his best tool, and he runs well for a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder. He’s capable of playing either outfield corner and his enthusiasm was lauded repeatedly during his time with the Reds. His biggest problem is that he’s overly aggressive at the plate, as evidenced by his 49-12 strikeout-walk ratio. And for a 22-year-old, he hasn’t progressed very far up the minor league ladder.

August 20 update: The Mets received the first of the two players to be named, 28-year-old outfielder Raul Gonzalez. Orignally signed as a 1990 17th-round pick out of Puerto Rico by the Royals, Gonzalez joined the Reds as a minor league free agent in December 2000 and re-signed with them a year later. He’s a line-drive hitter with a patient approach at the plate, and he’s capable of playing all three outfield positions. He doesn’t have plus power or speed, however, so he projects more as a useful guy off a major league bench than as a regular. Gonzalez was hitting .333-13-69 in 114 games at Triple-A Louisville, leading the International League in on-base percentage (.416), while ranking second in runs (91) and third in batting and hits (144). In 24 major league games over three seasons, he has hit .231-0-1 in 39 at-bats.

September 9 update: The Reds completed the Estes trade by sending outfielder Brady Clark to the Mets. Clark, 29, signed as a nondrafted free agent out of the University of San Diego in 1996. He doesn’t have outstanding physical tools, but he’s filled with desire and has spent parts of the last three years with Cincinnati, batting a combined .228-6-29 in 156 games. The Double-A Southern League MVP and batting champ in 1999, Clark has a line-drive stroke, good strike-zone discipline and average speed. He has played all three outfield positions in the majors, with his instincts his best defensive asset. Clark went 10-for-66 (.152) with nine RBI in 51 games for the Reds this year and also spent two stints at Triple-A Louisville, where he batted .303-1-17 in 25 contests.