Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ed Wade couldn't get in touch with Mark Leiter, the pitcher he traded to Seattle Monday. He couldn't find the pitcher he acquired, because Paul Spoljaric was hunting in Arizona.
"This may be the first trade in major-league history where the last to know are the two guys involved," Wade said.
Actually, Leiter knew he would get traded nearly two weeks ago, when the Phillies picked up his option for 1999. Philadelphia sent the 35-year-old right-hander to the Seattle Mariners for Spoljaric, a left-handed reliever who was part of Lou Piniella's self-destructive bullpen last year.
The Phillies exercised Leiter's $3 million option Oct. 29 in hopes of getting something of value for him.
"I appreciate that people think I was a high-stakes gambler by picking up the option," said Wade, discussing the deal from the general managers' meeting in Florida. "But I was confident we were going to get something done."
Leiter was the subject of heated traded rumors last spring, but became a valuable asset once closer Rocky Bottalico got hurt. Leiter led the team with 23 saves with a 7-5 record and 3.55 ERA in 69 relief appearances. The Mariners, who agreed to pick up Leiter's entire 1999 salary, may use him as a starter.
Spoljaric not only younger -- 28 -- and left-handed, he allows the Phillies to cut payroll even further. He made $255,000 last season.
The left-hander appeared in 53 games for the Mariners last year, 47 in relief. He was 4-6 with a 6.48 ERA and struck out 89 in 83 1-3 innings.
Acquired from Toronto with Mike Timlin for Jose Cruz Jr. in 1997, Spoljaric was part of an ineffective bullpen that blew 21 save chances last year. Seattle finished nine games under .500 and only 1½ games out of last place in the AL West -- division they were favored to win for the third time in four seasons.
"They were in a win now situation," Wade said. "I don't think he felt quite as comfortable as hopefully we can make him feel here. Obviously, we'd like to see better numbers than his '98 stats indicated."
Wade said he was involved in serious trade talks with several teams. Several clubs have inquired about catcher Bobby Estalella, and "everybody" asks about right-hander Curt Schilling, the Phillies' only legitimate superstar player.
"We say the same thing," Wade said. "We prefer to build around him rather than replace him."
Wade has stepped up talks with the agent for right-hander Armando Reynoso and was waiting for medical information on the pitcher's shoulder and elbow, both of which were scoped last season.
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