clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


John Smiley, one of four 20-game winners in the major leagues last season, was traded Tuesday from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Minnesota Twins for two minor leaguers.

Smiley, who agreed to a $3.44 million contract after filing for arbitration, is eligible for free agency after this season. Pittsburgh, which agreed to pay approximately $800,000 of Smiley's salary, received pitching prospect Denny Neagle and minor-league outfielder Midre Cummings in return."I'm surprised and shocked by it," said Smiley, a 27-year-old left-hander. "I had no idea this was coming. I had no desire to leave Pittsburgh. This is the only organization I've ever known. I'm very disappointed. I'm going to miss these guys."

Smiley, who tied Atlanta's Tom Glavine, Minnesota's Scott Erickson and Detroit's Bill Gullickson for the major-league lead in victories, had a 3.08 ERA last season and was third in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

"I would have been willing to stay here for a fair price," Smiley said. "I'm not a big money person.

"If they would have made me a reasonable long-term offer, I would have gladly stayed. They didn't even make me an offer, though.

"Maybe they can get by with a $2 million payroll. Maybe that's what they want. I think they're breaking up a good thing here with this club."

Pittsburgh has two other top players - Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek - who will be eligible for free agency after the season.

"We just didn't give Smiley away," Pirates general manager Ted Simmons said. "People in baseball know who these people are. People who follow the minor leagues fully understand what we got. These are the two guys I wanted, the two guys I had to have to part with Smiley."

Simmons claimed the move had nothing to do with Smiley's contract status or the team's payroll.

"To get the two players we're getting, I would have given up Smiley regardless of his status," Simmons said.

Minnesota was looking for a replacement for Jack Morris, who became a free agent and signed with Toronto.

"A 27-year-old left-hander who won 20 games doesn't come along very often," Twins general manager Andy MacPhail said. "We felt we couldn't turn down the opportunity to help us repeat as world champions. This gives us the luxury of two 20-game winners on the same staff."

MacPhail said the club has every intention of trying to re-sign Smiley after this season.

"But Kirby (Puckett) comes first," MacPhail said.

"The way we see it, the worst-case scenario is that Smiley goes to play somewhere else and we get two very high draft picks as compensation," MacPhail said. "Then, we get two players back.

"That would put a little pressure on our scouts and our scouting department to do as good a job as they've been doing in recent years."

Neagle, a 23-year-old left-hander, was 9-4 with a 3.27 at Class AAA Portland last season and 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in seven starts with Minnesota. The Pirates may use him as a reliever and move Vincente Palacios into the rotation.

"I have mixed emotions," Neagle said. "I'm happy I'll get a good opportunity with the Pirates, but on the other hand I'll have to make a lot of new friends and get used to a new organization."

Cummings, a 20-year-old outfielder who hit .322 for Class A Kenosha last season and won the Midwest League batting title, will report to the Pirates' major-league camp.

Bob Kipper, a reliever who signed with Minnesota last winter after six seasons in the Pirates organization, was happy to be reunited with Smiley.

"He can bring a lot to the club," Kipper said. "He's an established player. He's a good one. I'm surprised Pittsburgh let him go because he was a big part of their turnaround there."