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Tuesday, January 6, 2004
Updated: January 7, 8:00 AM ET
Padres get Cirillo, Sweeney and $4.775M

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Jeff Cirillo became a $6.6 million "super utility" infielder for the San Diego Padres after they completed a six-player trade with the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday.

The deal came less than three weeks after Cirillo blocked a trade to the New York Mets, saying he'd rather come off the bench for the Mariners than have an uncertain role with an East Coast team.

After struggling mightily for two seasons in Seattle, Cirillo is now headed back to the National League, where he flourished with Milwaukee and Colorado, batting over .300 in four consecutive seasons.

The Padres also acquired right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney and $4,775,000, payable in 2005, in exchange for right-hander Kevin Jarvis, catcher Wiki Gonzalez, infielder Dave Hansen and minor league outfielder Vince Faison.

Not only do the Padres get some badly needed depth in Cirillo, who grew up in Southern California, but they were able to dump Jarvis and Gonzalez, who flopped after signing long-term deals.

"We really feel a change of scenery will do this guy well," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said after making his second big deal in a week. The Padres signed David Wells last Wednesday after the left-hander, who grew up in San Diego, spurned the New York Yankees.

Besides backing up Sean Burroughs at third, Cirillo can also back up Phil Nevin at first, Mark Loretta at second and might also play some at shortstop, where rookie Khalil Greene is the leading candidate for the everyday job. Burroughs and Nevin both missed substantial time with injuries the last two seasons.

"We kind of look at him as a super utility guy, who can protect Burroughs when we face someone like Randy Johnson," said Towers, who's building up the Padres for their first season in $458 million Petco Park.

Burroughs, a left-handed hitter, had a solid 2003 season after struggling as a rookie in 2002. He took over as the leadoff hitter late in the season.

"Sean Burroughs is our third baseman, and Jeff Cirillo knows that," Towers said. "He'll be our guy, and we'll pick and choose times when we'll play Jeff at third base. He shouldn't look at it like somebody's in the wings waiting to take his job. He'll be our third baseman for a long, long time."

Burroughs is only 23 while Cirillo is 34.

If Cirillo rebounds, the Padres could trade him.

"I think this is a great gamble," Towers said. "This guy has a chance to turn his career around and maybe create value. The guys we traded, we didn't see future value."

Cirillo, a two-time All-Star, has been a bust in Seattle since being acquired in a trade with the Rockies following the 2001 season.

He hit only .249 with six homers and 54 RBI in 2002, then lost his starting job last season when he dropped to a career-low .205 in 258 at-bats.

His contract contained a limited no-trade clause that allowed him to block deals to about 10 teams.

"Jeff had made it clear that it was important to him and to his family to play elsewhere next season," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said in a statement. "We think this deal gives us flexibility in 2004 and 2005 that we did not have with Jeff on the roster, and helps fill some needs on our big league club."

While Cirillo will make $6.6 million this year, the deal is practically a wash for the Padres.

Jarvis is due $4.25 million in the final year of a $9 million, three-year deal he signed after leading the Padres with 12 wins in 2001. Bothered by elbow trouble, he won only six games combined the last two seasons.

Gonzalez, who lost his starting job twice during the last two years and at times angered the Padres with a lax attitude, will earn $1.2 million this year. Hansen will get $750,000.

In 2005, the Mariners will make up the difference between Cirillo's $7,025,000 salary and the $2.25 million Gonzalez will be due in the final season of his deal.

Jarvis, 34, went 4-8 with a 5.87 ERA in 16 starts last year. Hansen has been one of the best pinch-hitters during his 13-year career, but hit only .164 in that role last year.

Gonzalez hit .200 with no homers and 10 RBI in 65 at-bats before being sent to Triple-A Portland in May.