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Tuesday, November 2
Updated: November 4, 12:55 AM ET
Rangers deal Gonzalez to Tigers

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Juan Gone is long gone.

Juan Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP and one of baseball's most feared hitters, was traded by the Texas Rangers to the Detroit Tigers in a nine-player deal Tuesday.

Juan Gonzalez
Rather than have his free agency hanging over their heads, the Rangers parted ways with two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez.

"We've been working the last couple of years to acquire a marquee player," Tigers general manager Randy Smith said, calling Gonzalez "a franchise player and future Hall of Famer."

Going with Gonzalez to Detroit were pitcher Danny Patterson and catcher Gregg Zaun.

The Rangers received pitchers Justin Thompson, Alan Webb and Francisco Cordero, outfielder Gabe Kapler, catcher Bill Haselman and infielder Frank Catalanotto.

Gonzalez, known as "Juan Gone" for his home runs, was the AL MVP in 1996 and 1998. The Tigers have until Saturday to exercise a $7.5 million option on him for next year, and the sides spoke shortly after the trade was made.

Gonzalez, 30, is eligible for free agency after the 2000 season.

"We just weren't prepared to ... go into next season with that over our heads," Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said.

"I guess it heated up over the last couple of days," Melvin said. "We had talked about it at length. Randy Smith has been on vacation in Hawaii, so it was a long-distance call trying to get the deal done."

Smith, celebrating his wedding anniversary in Maui, said: "If you're going to deal with premier players, there's always a chance they'll walk. But you have to dare to be good."

Tues., November 2
In order for the Rangers to re-sign Juan Gonzalez, who is going to be a free agent after next year, they were going to have to pay him $15 million per season rand they weren't going to do that with Rafael Palmeiro and Pudge Rodriguez there. There's only so much payroll and they made the best deal they could.They found Detroit needing a star going into their new ballpark after a miserable year this season and frankly I think Texas made a fabulous trade.

What Doug Melvin has done here is turn the Rangers over and I think ensured that they are going to be competitive for the next five years, especially in the AL West. They now have Ruben Mateo, who is one of the best young players in baseball, to play center field and Gabe Kapler to play right. And understand the economics here. If they had to pay Gonzalez $15 million a year over the next five years, fine and good. But over the next five years, because of what they can make until they're free agents, Mateo and Kapler each will make approximately $13-15 million. That's how important it is to get good young players. You can save a ton of money and be very competitive in the process.

Maybe now with the money saved from Gonzalez they can attempt to re-sign Aaron Sele and/or go out on the market for Chuck Finley because, as it's beem proven over the last several years, the way to go against the Yankees is with left-handed pitching and with Justin Thompson and possibly Finley they very well could have a better team than they had this season.

"It's very difficult to entice a free agent to come to a city that hasn't won recently," he said. "Most players have to experience Detroit to see how good it is to play here."

Gonzalez, a two-time All-Star, hit .326 with 39 home runs and 128 RBI this year. He led the Rangers to the AL West titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999, yet all three seasons ended in disappointment as each time they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Series champion New York Yankees.

"The trade hurts my feelings, because it's after 13 consecutive years with one organization, giving them my best," Gonzalez told Puerto Rico television station Teleonce.

Nonetheless, he commended the Rangers organization for the way he was treated.

"I thank the Rangers organization for giving me the opportunity to be a professional," Gonzalez said. "It's a great organization, and they treated me like a king."

Detroit went 69-92 last season and finished third in the AL Central, 27½ games behind Cleveland in their final season at Tiger Stadium.

The Tigers hope for a fresh start next season when they move into new Comerica Park under newly hired manager Phil Garner.

"Over the last few years, we have worked hard to develop a farm system with a high talent level and strong depth," Smith said, without which "we could not have made today's deal."

Melvin said Thompson is highly regarded, although the left-hander underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder Aug. 26. At the time he was put on the disabled list, then-manager Larry Parrish said Thompson was "mentally beat up."

"Whenever there's surgery, there's a certain amount of risk involved," Melvin said. "He was pitching hurt, and that was affecting his last few performances."

Thompson, 26, was 9-11 with a 5.11 ERA. He was an All-Star during his first full season in 1997, but has been slowed by injuries.

In 11 seasons with Texas, Gonzalez batted .294 with 340 home runs and 1,075 RBI.

Gonzalez played in 49 games combined for the Rangers in 1989 and 1990 before spending his first full season in the majors in 1991.

He batted .314 with 47 home runs and 144 RBI in 1996 as Texas won its first division title, and batted .318 with 45 homers and 157 RBI in 1998. The Puerto Rican native put up more big numbers last season, but his production was somewhat overshadowed by his refusal to play in the All-Star Game and the strong offensive production from teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez.

Gonzalez and the hard-hitting Rangers also were criticized after getting swept by the Yankees in the opening round. Texas has scored a total of only two runs in its last 60 postseason innings, and lost nine in a row to New York.

Gonzalez was considered a lock to be one of the reserves chosen for July's All-Star game in Boston, but he told reporters that he would not play in the classic unless he was voted in as a starter by the fans. Melvin and Rangers manager Johnny Oates said they disagreed with Gonzalez's decision, but never criticized him publicly.

"Changes are positive, now I have to give my best. I can't say I'm going to sign with Detroit, because I still have a year left (in my contract)," Gonzalez said.

Kapler, 24, became the Tigers' center fielder once Brian Hunter was traded to Seattle early in the season. Kapler hit .245 with 18 home runs and 49 RBI.

Cordero, a 22-year-old righty, made his major league debut and was 2-2 with a 3.32 ERA in 20 relief appearances.

Catalanotto, 25, hit .276 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI as a second baseman. Haselman, a 33-year-old backup, hit .273 with four home runs and 14 RBI.

Webb, a 20-year-old lefty, was 9-9 with a 4.95 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville.

Along with Gonzalez, the Tigers got Patterson and Zaun, both 28. The right-handed Patterson was 2-0 with a 5.67 ERA in 53 relief appearances and Zaun hit .247 with one homer and 12 RBI as a backup to Rodriguez.

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