Brewers acquire Mota from Mets
Club deals catcher Estrada after just one year in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers did not have a deal in place with free-agent catcher Jason Kendall as of Tuesday evening, but they traded away their incumbent at that position anyway.Milwaukee sent catcher Johnny Estrada to the Mets for reliever Guillermo Mota in a swap of players coming off disappointing seasons. It opened the playing time that Kendall is seeking, and the Brewers have two proposed contracts on the table for the veteran to consider. But no agreement had been struck, general manager Doug Melvin said. "We were willing to make the trade now, because it gave us a chance to add a bullpen arm," Melvin said. "We like Mota's arm, and they [Mota and Estrada] are both in the last year of their contract. We didn't see staying with Johnny going forward." Mota is 34 years old and coming off his ninth Major League season. He was 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 52 appearances with the Mets after returning from a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. The Mets, nonetheless, inked him to a two-year, $5 million contract that will pay $3.2 million in 2008. "We looked at that and talked about it," Melvin said of Mota's suspension. "That was almost two years ago, and he served his suspension at the start of '07. That could be something we're all facing as time goes on and names come out. [Mota] was contrite and he served his suspension." Since 2002, Mota ranks fourth among Major League relievers with 444 1/3 innings pitched. The Brewers, who have made a point to target power arms in recent seasons, like his durability. "He pitched two innings in a game 13 times last year," Melvin said. "That's something we've talked about, the fact that [in 2006] we were a club with a lot of one-inning guys. It's nice to have some pitchers who can give you two innings at a time. "He's got a good arm, and he has good experience. We're hoping he can bounce back. Any reliever has good years and bad years. We're banking that he can bounce back next year." Melvin said negotiations were ongoing with Bean Stringfellow, the representative for free-agent closer Francisco Cordero, with no progress to report. If the Brewers are unable to re-sign Cordero, they might have to look elsewhere for a closer, though Melvin wouldn't rule out Mota as an emergency option. "That's not in the plans, but he has that kind of arm," Melvin said. "I suppose you could use him if you had to."
Estrada hit .278 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs last season after being traded from Arizona to Milwaukee in a multi-player deal the day after last Thanksgiving. He talked openly about his personality conflicts with Arizona officials, but for the most part, avoided confrontation in Milwaukee, except for one dugout skirmish with manager Ned Yost in August in which Estrada and others apparently were defending a teammate. Ironically, the altercation happened during a game against the Mets and was caught on video by the New York television feed.Estrada underwent knee and elbow surgery immediately after the season, and the elbow injury likely contributed to his trouble throwing out baserunners. Estrada threw out six of 79 baserunners and ranked last in the Majors with a 7.6 percent success rate. The Mets emerged as a suitor for Estrada last week after talks with free agent Yorvit Torrealba fell apart. "I think Johnny will be fine there," Melvin said. "We said that if we had a chance to get a bullpen arm for him, we would do it." Tuesday's trade left the Brewers with no proven in-house options to catch. Did that make Melvin nervous? "I don't get nervous anymore," the GM joked. "If it doesn't work out [with Kendall], we'll figure something out." The Brewers have two proposals out to Kendall, Melvin confirmed. He would not go into detail, but one presumably offers the security of a multi-year commitment while the other offers a higher salary for one year and would give Kendall, whose offensive numbers were down in 2007, an opportunity to boost his value for next year. "We still haven't agreed on anything," Melvin said. Kendall's agent, Arn Tellem, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office. Kendall, 33, finished the 2007 season with the Cubs, where he batted .270 with a .362 on-base percentage after a midseason trade from Oakland. He hit a combined .242 with three homers in 41 RBIs in 137 games for the A's and Cubs. He is a career .297 hitter in 12 seasons.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.