Left-hander Denny Neagle has turned from the fourth starter on the vaunted staff of the Atlanta Braves to the ace of the Cincinnati Reds' rotation.
The Braves sent Neagle, outfielder Michael Tucker and minor-league pitcher Rob Bell to the Reds for second baseman Bret Boone and left-hander Mike Remlinger on Tuesday.After failing to reach the World Series following a season in which they won a franchise-record 106 games, the Braves decided to subtract a 16-game winner from their deep rotation to address a glaring hole at second base. The emergence of fifth starter Kevin Millwood this past season also may have convinced Atlanta to part with Neagle.
The 30-year-old Neagle is signed through 2000 at $4.5 million per year with a club option for $5.25 million in 2001. He immediately becomes the ace of a Cincinnati staff that had just two pitchers - Pete Harnisch and Brett Tomko - with more than 10 wins.
The 29-year-old Boone is scheduled to earn $2.9 million in 1999 and $3.75 million in 2000 with a club option for $4 million in 2001. Boone posted career highs and led the Reds with 24 home runs and 95 runs batted in 1998 and provides a dramatic upgrade over Atlanta's second base tandem of Keith Lockhart and Tony Graffanino.
Although somewhat overlooked in a staff featuring Cy Young Award winners Greg Mad-dux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Neagle is regarded as one of the top left-handers in the National League. He went 16-11 with a 3.55 earned run average in 32 games with five complete games and three shutouts in 1998.
Neagle has won 65 games over the past four years, including a 20-5 campaign in 1997. He was an All-Star in 1995 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and in 1997 for Atlanta.
Neagle, who began his career in 1991 with Minnesota, has a lifetime record of 81-55 with a 3.78 ERA. Since 1994, he has averaged 16 wins, 218 innings and 159 strikeouts per season.
Millwood now becomes the fourth starter in the Braves' rotation after winning 17 games in 1998, with Remlinger and prospect Bruce Chen in line for the fifth spot.
Along with displaying some power this past season after averaging just 10 homers in his first six years, Boone won a Gold Glove for the first time. He has spent the past five years with the Reds and batted a career-high .320 in 1994.
Boone, who broke in with Seattle 1992, is a lifetime .256 hitter with 86 homers and 399 RBI.
The Braves received limited production from the platoon of Lockhart and Graffanino, which also fared poorly defensively with 17 errors. Lockhart batted .257 with nine homers and 37 RBI and Graffanino hit just .211 with five homers and 22 RBI.
Tucker, a left-handed hitter, smacked a clutch three-run homer off San Diego Padres ace Kevin Brown in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. The go-ahead home run capped a five-RBI game for Tucker and lifted the Braves to a 7-6 victory.