A day after signing Randy Johnson and torching any skepticism about their willingness to spend money, the Mariners stamped out the embers yesterday by acquiring outfielder Eric Anthony from Houston for Mike Felder and young left-handed pitcher Mike Hampton.
Anthony is eligible for salary arbitration, and the Mariners expect him to make about $1.2 million next season - some $350,000 more than Felder will make.
The Mariners see Anthony - 26 and somewhat diminished from the near-untouchable tag he brought out of the minors four years ago - as part of the solution to their dismal 47-62 mark against right-handed starters last season.
A left-handed batter, Anthony hit .249 with 15 homers and 66 runs batted in last season, after batting .239 with 19 homers and 80 RBI in 1992.
"Without Dave Valle (free agent) and Bret Boone (traded to Cincinnati), we had to come up with some power, as well as improve out chances against right-handers," Manager Lou Piniella said. "Anthony can do those things for us."
Piniella slotted Anthony to hit sixth. His winter lineup reads: Rich Amaral at second base, Edgar Martinez at third, Ken Griffey Jr. in center field, Jay Buhner in right, Tino Martinez at first, Anthony in left, a designated hitter to be announced, Dan Wilson at catcher, Omar Vizquel at shortstop.
"You like it?" Piniella asked. "I do. Nice power in that outfield, huh?"
Roger Jongewaard, Mariner personnel director, noted that
Anthony is not regarded as highly as he was in 1990 when he joined Houston after hitting 57 homers in his previous two minor-league seasons.
"He's a bit heavier than he was then and doesn't run as well," Jongewaard said. "He's an average outfielder with an OK arm.
"But when he gets hot, he gets red hot. He can carry a team. He hits them a long way. The problem at times is after he hits one in the upper deck, he sometimes tries to hit all of them that far."
The matter of getting Anthony to hit more consistently is up to Piniella and hitting coach Ken Griffey Sr. Some National League batters have had problems adjusting to the more frequent breaking balls thrown in the American League.
"We'll be working with him," Piniella said. "We got him for the power, but he should hit more than .240-.250."
The deal means Seattle was successful in unloading the disappointing Felder, a .257 career hitter going into last season who slumped to .211.
"The key was Hampton," Jongewaard said. "He's only 21, and he struggled in the majors last year, but he's pitching well in Puerto Rico right now, and he's got a good future. But we're also blessed with a lot of left-handed pitching in our system."
The deal, after Johnson signed a four-year deal worth $20.25 million, means the Mariner budget becomes a bit tighter.
"Some people thought we traded Erik Hanson to unload payroll, like some past Seattle clubs," Piniella said. "They were wrong. And we're not done making moves, either. We're going to get some pitching, too."
--------------------------------------------------------. Trade talk
Whom Mariners got: Outfielder Eric Anthony, 26, a left-handed hitter from the Houston Astros.
Whom Mariners gave up: Left fielder Mike Felder, 31, a left-handed hitter with a .250 career average, and left-handed pitcher Mike Hampton, 21, who was 1-3 with a 9.53 earned-run average with M's in '93.
Inside scoop: Mariners got badly needed left-handed power. They gave up speed in unloading Felder, who did not live up to expectations and batted .211 last season. In Hampton, they gave up a young pitching prospect.
Anthony stats: The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder was considered untouchable four years ago. Anthony hit .249 with 15 homers and 66 runs batted in last season after batting .239 with 19 homers and 80 RBI in 1992. In the minors, he led leagues three consecutive years (1987-89) and led all minor-league players with 29 homers in 1988 and 31 homers in '89. Class AA Player of Year in '89.
Anthony personal: Born in San Diego. Eligible for salary arbitration this year. Selected in 34th round of June 1986 draft.