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Sunday, June 27, 2004
Updated: June 28, 9:43 AM ET
Garcia himself stunned over trade

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Freddy Garcia's name has been kicked around in dozens of trade rumors over the past month.

Still, the big right-hander was stunned when a deal finally came down.

"I don't know what to say. It's hard for me to leave. I do love playing here," Garcia told reporters in Safeco Field's interview room after San Diego's 5-1 win over the Mariners on Sunday.

Garcia was traded to the Chicago White Sox, who gave up young catcher Miguel Olivo, top prospect Jeremy Reed and minor league infielder Michael Morse. Chicago also gets catcher Ben Davis and cash from the Mariners.

Garcia, who will be a free agent after the season, learned of the trade midway through Sunday's game. He stood on the dugout steps, chatting with fans, just before the news was posted on the video board in the ninth inning.

"I've got a lot of good memories here," Garcia said. "I can't count them. Nice people, a good team. What can I say? It's all good."

Garcia was 4-7 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts for last-place Seattle this season. The two-time All-Star is 76-50 in his six-year career with a 3.89 ERA. There were scattered boos when the deal was shown.

"I get it. To see him go, with no knowledge of what you're getting, is tough," Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi said. "If I was outside the organization, I might feel the same way because I love watching the guy pitch."

Bavasi urged Seattle fans to see the big picture.

The front office saw the trade as a chance to bolster several potential weaknesses. Dan Wilson has been a workhorse behind the plate for 11 seasons in Seattle, but at 35 he might not be around too much longer.

Manager Bob Melvin made it clear in spring training he wanted to see the 27-year-old Davis seize the starting job, but Davis was sent to Triple-A Tacoma after hitting .091 in 14 games.

The Mariners landed another major league catcher, and Olivo is considered a solid baserunner and defender. He's hitting .270 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 45 games with the White Sox.

The 22-year-old Morse, hitting .287 with 11 homers at Double-A Birmingham, will report to Double-A San Antonio. The 23-year-old Reed, hitting .273 with eight homers and 36 RBIs at Triple-A Charlotte, will report to Tacoma.

It's no secret the Mariners need offense. Seattle's .257 team average ranks last in the American League. Bavasi hopes to keep arms within the pitching-rich organization and continue to look for help at the plate.

"We're going to use that pitching in the next few years, and the money we have to spend will be spent primarily on position players," he said.

Bavasi rejected suggestions that the deal means the front office has given up on this season. At the same time, he hinted he might not be finished dealing.

"I never say never, but we're going to keep playing, keep trying to win as many games as we can," Bavasi said. "If there are moves that improve the club for the here-and-now or the future, we're going to look at them."

The trade came together in the final 24 hours. The last hurdle, from Seattle's perspective, came when team executives considered whether they should offer Garcia a long-term deal.

"It was going to have to exceed what he projected [to receive] in the free agent market. Our choice was the deal," Bavasi said.

Talk in the Seattle clubhouse after the game was focused on the trade.

"It's hard to lose a guy that we've played a long time with," Edgar Martinez said. "He's done a good job for us, and he was doing a good job this year. You've got to feel good for him."

Bret Boone said he'd lost "a good friend, a good teammate and a great pitcher." Wilson, who knows Garcia as well as anyone on the team after catching him for the past six seasons, wished him well.

"One of the things about Freddy is his ability to be a big-game pitcher," Wilson said. "He can turn it on when he has to. He can turn it up when he has to."