NEW YORK Looking to shuffle their roster after an embarrassing collapse this season, the New York Mets found a new catcher and right fielder Friday.
The price: prized outfield prospect Lastings Milledge.
After holding onto Milledge through years of trade speculation, the Mets finally dealt him to the Washington Nationals for catcher Brian Schneider and outfielder Ryan Church.
"I thought we needed to change it up a little," New York general manager Omar Minaya said. "Names like Schneider and Church are not known names, but they give us balance."
In Schneider, the Mets add yet another catcher following their trade for Johnny Estrada last week. Coming off two operations and deficient on defense, Estrada is probably on his way out without ever suiting up for New York.
In Milledge, the Nationals pick up a talented young player they hope can avoid the sort of missteps that marked his Mets career and be a key component of their rebuilding project.
"We're getting a guy who has a chance to be an impact bat in our lineup for years to come," Washington manager Manny Acta said.
ROCKIES SIGN HERGES: The Colorado Rockies agreed Friday to a $2.5 million, one-year deal with free agent reliever Matt Herges that includes a club option for 2009. The 37-year-old Herges started the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs, but became a key contributor in a second-half surge that carried the Rockies to their first NL pennant. He was 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA in 35 relief appearances for Colorado.
LARA STILL LISTED CRITICAL: Cleveland Indians reliever Juan Lara showed some improvement but remained in critical condition Friday, nearly a week after his car crash in the Dominican Republic. "Juan has showed mild improvement from the lung trauma he suffered in the accident," said Dashira Martinez, spokesman for Santo Domingo's Plaza de la Salud hospital. His condition has not changed otherwise, Martinez said. The 26-year-old left-hander suffered a fractured spine, severe brain trauma, two broken ribs and a punctured lung in the crash Saturday night. Two others were killed.
PERCIVAL TO BOLSTER RAYS: Troy Percival thinks the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have a bright future, and wants to do everything he can to help the young team realize its potential. Spurning suitors that included the New York Yankees, the 38-year-old reliever agreed to an $8 million, two-year contract Friday with Tampa Bay, which needed to upgrade one of the worst bullpens in the major leagues. Percival, who came out of retirement to go 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in 34 appearances for St. Louis in 2007, will have a chance to earn another $4 million-plus in bonuses.
RISKE TALKING WITH BREWERS: Seeking to fill the void left when right-handed reliever Scott Linebrink left through free agency, the Milwaukee Brewers are in negotiations with free agent relief pitcher David Riske. "We're still talking," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We're optimistic we'll be able to get something done, but we don't anticipate anything until next week." Riske is 19-18 with a 3.40 ERA and 20 saves in eight seasons with Cleveland, Boston, the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City.
IZTURIS, CARDINALS AGREE: Free-agent infielder Cesar Izturis agreed Friday to a $2.85 million, one-year contract with the Cardinals, a sign St. Louis has decided to abandon trying to re-sign shortstop David Eckstein. The Cardinals have to decide by Saturday whether to offer arbitration to Eckstein, who has filed for free agency. The two sides were not close in negotiations and general manager John Mozeliak, who said the Cardinals "probably" would cut ties with Eckstein, wanted to make sure a replacement was in place.
ARBITRATION OFFERED:: The Atlanta Braves offered salary arbitration to left-handed relief pitcher Ron Mahay on Friday and, as expected, declined to offer arbitration to outfielder Andruw Jones. The 36-year-old Mahay was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 30 games with the Braves following a July 31 trade from Texas, where he was 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in 28 games. Mahay could opt for free agency after a strong season in which he limited left-handed hitters to a .189 batting average. Teams have until midnight Saturday to offer arbitration to free-agent players.
TIGERS, ROGERS AGREE : Kenny Rogers knew all along where he wanted to be. The 43-year-old left-hander ended his free agency Friday when he agreed to a one-year deal that will keep him with the Detroit Tigers for a third season. "There was really never any other choice but Detroit," said Rogers, who represented himself in contract negotiations. "The possibilities of playing somewhere else didn't appeal to me at all." Rogers' deal is thought to be worth about $8 million, possibly with performance bonuses.