Athletics ship AL's top closer to White Sox

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

CHICAGO -- Billy Koch's reward for being the AL's top closer is a moving van.

The Oakland Athletics shipped Koch to the Chicago White Sox in a six-player trade Tuesday, dumping yet another big salary with an eye toward future payrolls.

''My initial reaction was, 'What's a guy got to do to stay with the team?'' said Koch, who was traded to Oakland by Toronto last December. ''It's sort of frustrating, but then you turn around and look at it as a new start. I look at it as a challenge.''

In exchange for Koch and two minor leaguers, the Athletics get White Sox closer Keith Foulke, catcher Mark Johnson, minor league right-hander Joe Valentine and cash.

The deal is a financial wash this year because of the cash from Chicago. But it allows Oakland to free up money in the future.

Koch had a $2.35 million base salary this season and made $150,000 in performance bonuses. Eligible for salary arbitration for the next three seasons, his salary is likely to double this winter and go up even more in future years.

Foulke is due $6 million next season, but then becomes eligible for free agency.

''If you look at our payroll after this year and the forecast for where Billy's salary is going to go, it's unrealistic to believe we could have held onto him,'' Oakland general manager Billy Beane said. ''This is going to give us a little more flexibility going forward from a payroll standpoint.''

Though the A's considered signing Koch to a long-term deal last season, it just wasn't possible economically. The small-market team had a $42 million payroll last season, and Beane said it will be rise next year.

Dodgers set to send Karros, Grudzielanek to Cubs for Hundley

The Los Angeles Dodgers reached a tentative agreement with the Cubs on Tuesday to trade first baseman Eric Karros and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to Chicago for catcher Todd Hundley.

The Cubs, retooling their roster under new manager Dusty Baker, and Dodgers were given 72 hours to finalize the deal. To make it happen, Hundley and Grudzielanek must agree to have their contracts restructured.

Karros, Hundley and Grudzielanek are still owed big money. As part of the deal, the Dodgers would send cash to the Cubs.

Remlinger agrees to $10.65 million, three-year deal with Cubs

CHICAGO -- Mike Remlinger doesn't see why his string of playoff appearances has to end with the Chicago Cubs.

The left-handed reliever finalized a $10.65 million, three-year contract with Chicago on Tuesday and will bolster a Cubs' bullpen that blew numerous leads last season and squandered 25 saves.

''I've had the luxury of going to the playoffs for four straight years with Atlanta, and I don't look at this as anything other than a chance to keep that winning tradition going,'' Remlinger said Tuesday.

History suggests otherwise.

The Cubs haven't had back-to-back winning season in 30 years and haven't appeared in a World Series since 1945.

Remlinger was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 73 games with the Braves last season, his fourth year with Atlanta.

He came up to the major leagues with the Giants in 1991 when new Cubs manager Dusty Baker was San Francisco's hitting coach.

Remlinger expects Baker to have an immediate impact in Chicago.

''I don't think we're too far away here as far as what we need to win. We've got great young pitching and a lot of talent,'' he said. ''Dusty's a guy who's really good at putting those pieces together and pulling the right strings to make it all work.''

He has appeared in 440 major leagues games -- all but 59 as a reliever -- with a 44-41 record and a 3.80 ERA.

Remlinger, who struggled with the decision to leave Atlanta, said the fan support at Wrigley Field and a chance to mentor some of the Cubs' young pitchers ended up steering him to the Cubs.

''It probably could have been done maybe a week or so ago, but every time we turned the corner it point us back to Chicago,'' he said. ''The bottom line was I wanted to be in a place where the fans were going to be excited about the team they have on the field.''

The signing of Remlinger is one of several offseason moves for the Cubs.

They hired Baker as their new manager, less than a month after he took the Giants to the World Series. And they have also acquired catchers Damian Miller from Arizona and Paul Bako of Milwaukee in trades.

Also on Tuesday, they reached a tentative agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers to trade first baseman Eric Karros and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek to Chicago for catcher Todd Hundley. The sides were given 72 hours to complete the deal, which hinges on whether Grudzielanek and Hundley will restructure their contracts.

''We're certainly not done addressing the bullpen,'' Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. ''Mike, obviously, was the key to get things rolling, but we still have some work to do.''

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