|Stronger Sox: Boston trades for Eric Gagne as Rangers widen fire sale|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 31 July 2007 12:03|
Gagne, pitching like his old self following two elbow operations and back surgery, was acquired by Boston for the stretch run on Tuesday from the Texas Rangers, who also unloaded first baseman Mark Teixeira to Atlanta in a seven-player swap.
Once one of baseball's premier closers, Gagne waived the no-trade clause in his contract to join a Boston bullpen that already had two All-Star relievers: closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Hideki Okajima.
But the Red Sox, who entered Tuesday leading the AL East by eight games over New York, didn't want to take any chances of blowing their big lead and acquired Gagne to bolster the back end of their bullpen after consecutive implosions last weekend by Papelbon and Manny Delcarmen.
Gagne will serve as Papelbon's primary setup man and will close on days Papelbon needs rest.
``We actually love our bullpen,'' Boston manager Terry Francona said of his relievers, who have the lowest ERA (2.74) in the majors. ``I think it just got a lot better. Papelbon, Okajima and Gagne - these are guys that you don't match up. You just let them pitch really good baseball.''
Shortly after acquiring Gagne, Boston announced that reliever Brendan Donnelly will have season-ending surgery on his right elbow.
The Red Sox sent left-hander Kason Gabbard and minor league outfielders David Murphy and Engel Beltre to the Rangers, who were the busiest team in the majors before Tuesday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waiver trade deadline.
Texas also will cover part of what remains on Gagne's contract.
He was guaranteed $2.5 million in additional money by Boston to accept the trade, raising his 2007 earnings to $9.85 million. Gagne already had a $6 million base salary and had earned $1.35 million in performance bonuses. As part of the deal, he agreed to eliminate his remaining performance bonuses, which are based on games finished.
Agent Scott Boras said the chance to pitch on a playoff contender was irresistible for Gagne, who played in just two postseason games with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
``Eric wanted to be in a playoff environment,'' Boras said. ``He has respect for Papelbon, and I'm sure Papelbon has respect for him. While he won't be a fulltime closer there, it was an opportunity to win.''
Earlier, the Rangers completed the deal that sent Teixeira and pitcher Ron Mahay to the Braves for rookie catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers. Last week, the Rangers traded outfielder Kenny Lofton to the Cleveland Indians for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.
Gagne stayed at the team hotel and did not accompany the Rangers to Jacobs Field before the deal was announced.
``There's a little mixed emotions in there,'' Rangers pitcher Kevin Millwood said. ``The trade for Tex (Teixeira) kind of had to happen, I think. He just wasn't going to re-sign here. At least we got some good players. Gagne, I kind of felt we had a chance to sign him. I'm a little more surprised, but we move on.''
Milwaukee, clinging to its NL Central lead, also had been interested in obtaining Gagne.
Gagne was on Boston's radar screen last winter before he signing a one-year contract with the Rangers in December after eight successful seasons with the Dodgers.
He went 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA and 16 saves for last-place Texas, which began a three-game series in Cleveland 15 1/2 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
The 31-year-old Gagne was a three-time All-Star and won the NL Cy Young Award in 2003 when he saved 55 games for the Dodgers.
He had 45 saves in 2004 but was limited to just 14 the following season because of elbow problems that eventually needed surgery. The hard-throwing native of Montreal pitched in only two games last season as he tried to come back from another elbow operation as well as surgery to repair a herniated disk.
From 2002-04, Gagne set a major league record by converting 84 consecutive saves. There were still doubts about his durability, but he has been able to pitch on consecutive days this season, further proof that he's healthy.
The 25-year-old Gabbard went 4-0 with a 3.73 ERA, taking Curt Schilling's spot in the rotation while the right-hander was on the disabled list. Schilling, who was scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, could be activated later this week.
Murphy, 26, was batting .280 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 100 games for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Beltre, 18, batted .215 with five homers and 13 RBIs for the Gulf Coast Red Sox.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York, AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen in Boston and AP freelance writer Chuck Murr in Cleveland contributed to this report.