M’s pick up Sanchez to bolster defense, bench

By Jim Callis
July 29, 2003

The Mets continued to clean house on Tuesday, making their fifth trade of the month by sending Rey Sanchez to the Mariners for Triple-A outfielder Kenny Kelly. Sanchez temporarily will step in at shortstop for Carlos Guillen, who was placed on the disabled list with a groin injury shortly after the trade.

Sanchez, 36, is the epitome of the good-field, no-hit tag. A slick defender at either second base or shortstop, he never has posted an on-base plus slugging percentage greater than .698 in 13 big league seasons. Signed to a one-year free-agent contract worth $1.3 million plus $700,000 in possible incentives during the offseason, Sanchez’ role was to keep shortstop warm for the Mets until prospect Jose Reyes was ready to take over. Reyes has, making Sanchez expendable. He’s having his worst-ever year at the plate, hitting .207-0-12 in 56 games. He’ll back up Bret Boone at second base and Guillen (who also missed time earlier this month with groin problems) at shortstop. Sanchez’ career totals are .272-13-350 in 1,330 contests.

Kelly is best known as Ken Dorsey’s predecessor at quarterback at the University of Miami. The Devil Rays signed him to a two-sport deal as a second-round pick out of a Tampa high school in 1997, then got him to give up football with a four-year big league contract worth $2.2 million in February 2000. Strapped for cash and dismayed by his lack of progress, the Rays got out of his contract by selling him to Seattle in April 2001. He seemed to turn a corner in the second half of that season, and the Mariners started getting excited about his combination of speed, power and arm strength. However, Kelly has regressed since and remains an athlete who hasn’t been able to turn his tools into baseball prowess. He hit .246-13-37 with 20 steals in 96 games at Tacoma this year, though he’s still struggling to learn the strike zone (29 walks, 79 whiffs). He appeared in two big league games with the 2000 Devil Rays, going 0-for-1. The Mets assigned Kelly to Triple-A Norfolk.