Yanks shuffle Mondesi to offense-hungry D’backs

By Jim Callis

July 29, 2003

Raul Mondesi reacted angrily when Yankees manager Joe Torre pinch-hit for him Sunday night, storming out of the clubhouse and traveling apart from the team when it left for a West Coast swing. That was enough for him to wear out his welcome in New York. The Yankees traded him to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday for David Dellucci, Bret Prinz and low Class A catcher Jon-Mark Sprowl. New York also sent $2.02 million to Arizona to cover the difference in the salaries of Mondesi and Dellucci.

Mondesi, 32, has one of the best combinations of tools in the majors with his power, speed and awesome right-field arm. But he’s also a consistent underachiever and difficult personality. The Blue Jays traded him last July after he questioned the credentials of Toronto manager Carlos Tosca when Tosca benched Mondesi for a game after he arrived late for a team meeting. The Jays were willing to pick up $6 million of Mondesi’s $13 million salary in 2003 to be rid of him. He hit .258-16-49 with 17 steals in 98 games with the Yankees this year, boosting his career totals to .275-256-806 with 224 swipes in 1,405 contests. The Diamondbacks view him as an upgrade in right field, where they had gotten a combined .689 on-base plus slugging percentage (the worst figure at that position in the National League). The main culprits were Danny Bautista, Dellucci and Quinton McCracken. Mondesi will become a free agent when his six-year, $60 million contract expires at season’s end.

Dellucci, 29, has served the Diamondbacks as a reserve outfielder since they took him from the Orioles in the November 1997 expansion draft. He’s a line-drive hitter with gap power and decent ability at drawing walks. He’s more notable for his hustle than his speed on the basepaths and in the outfield, and he has a below-average arm. Dellucci has slumped in 2003, hitting .242-2-19 in 165 at-bats. He always had excelled as a pinch-hitter, with a career .302 average in those situations before this year, when he has gone just 2-for-17 (.118). In 520 big league games, he has hit .270-26-159. Dellucci currently makes $900,000 and will be arbitration-eligible in the offseason.

Prinz, a 26-year-old righthander, led major league rookies with nine saves in 2001 but missed Arizona’s World Series run that year when he came down with shoulder tendinitis in September. He has worked just 14 innings in the majors since (and only one in 2003) because he has had mechanical problems and a groin tear. A sidearmer with a 92-95 mph fastball, he’s tough when he keeps his pitches down but gets hammered when he doesn’t. His slider is his second pitch. Prinz has spent most of 2003 recuperating from his groin problems in the minors, posting a 5.40 ERA in 13 appearances between Arizona’s top three minor league affiliates. In 67 big league games, he has gone 4-3, 4.23 with nine saves, a 38-30 strikeout-walk ratio in 55 innings and a .270 opponent average. The Yankees assigned him to Triple-A Columbus.

Sprowl is the son of former big league pitcher Bobby Sprowl, who made a disastrous start against the Yankees during the Boston Massacre of 1978. Drafted by the Cubs out of a Florida high school in 1998’s 47th round, he signed as a draft-and-follow in 1999 after spending a year at Shelton State (Ala.) CC. Chicago traded him to Arizona for future considerations in March 2002. Sprowl has been an on-base machine at South Bend this year, hitting .296-4-42 in 95 games and standing out with his 54-31 BB-K ratio and .402 on-base percentage. On the downside, he’s 22 and took a step back after playing in high Class A last year. He’s also rough behind the plate, leading the Midwest League in catching errors (12) while ranking second in passed balls (15) and third-worst in throwing out basestealers (19 percentage). The Yankees kept Sprowl in the MWL by sending him to Battle Creek.