Carlos Baerga, struggling after four years as one of baseball's best second basemen, was traded Monday from the Indians to the New York Mets for infielders Jose Vizcaino and Jeff Kent.
Baerga, 27, is a three-time All-Star and was a major reason Cleveland reached the World Series last season. But he irritated the team by reporting to spring training overweight, was batting only .267 and was not providing the defense the Indians wanted up the middle.
Though recent rumors had the Indians working on a trade to send him to Florida, the AL Central leaders had emphatically denied even considering a deal for the popular Baerga. But it was the Indians, the Mets said, who injected Baerga's name into trade talks.
The Indians also sent utilityman Alvaro Espinoza to the Mets in the second trade this season between the teams. In spring training, Cleveland sent pitcher Mark Clark to the Mets for outfielder Ryan Thompson and pitcher Reid Cornelius.
Baseball's trading deadline is Wednesday. The Indians lead Chicago by seven games in the AL Central. The Mets, 16 games behind Atlanta in the NL East, are building for 1997.
Baerga has 10 home runs and 55 RBI. In the four previous seasons, he hit between .312 and .321 while averaging almost 19 home runs and just over 97 RBI.
"Leaving the Cleveland Indians is going to be like taking my heart away," Baerga said. "It's going to be something that I'm never going to forget about. I'm going to show these people when I come back here for the All-Star Game in '97 that I really love this game and I really love to play here."
Said Indians general manager John Hart: "Obviously, this is a very difficult decision for us. Carlos was one of the players who helped turn this franchise around in the early 1990s."
Vizcaino is expected to move into Baerga's spot at second base. Vizcaino may also play some shortstop while Omar Vizquel recovers from shoulder problems.
Vizcaino, moved from shortstop to second base this season so the Mets could play rookie sensation Rey Ordonez every day, is hitting .303 with six triples, one home run and 32 RBI.
For the Mets, the trade not only brings another legitimate threat to the middle of the lineup, it allows manager Dallas Green to pencil another promising player, Edgardo Alfonzo, into the lineup every day at third base.
REDS: Manager Ray Knight spent Sunday night in a Cincinnati-area hospital after a severe allergy attack, but was released in time for the Reds' game Monday night.
ANGELS: Top catching prospect Todd Greene was called up from Triple-A Vancouver. RHP Ryan Hancock was sent to the Pacific Coast League team.
Cincinnati's Chris Sabo walks from the dugout after being ejected in the second inning when his bat cracked, leaving several pieces of cork on the field. "It's an automatic ejection," umpire crew chief Ed Montague said. "I told Chris, "You're done,' and he said, "It's not my bat.' "