Wednesday, February 03, 1999

Reds hit homer with Vaughn trade




BY TIM SULLIVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Greg Vaughn makes perfect sense. Big bats always do.

        He is 33, too old for a youth movement. He will make $5.75 million in 1999, too pricey for an austerity program. He has a gimpy knee and a problem shoulder and a goatee that runs contrary to Cincinnati Reds club policy.

        But the ball jumps off his bat as if it were hurled from a howitzer. When such a guy becomes available, you grab him.

        The Reds are building toward a new stadium that is still in the design phase, tightly focused on long-term development. Yet so long as it is possible to steal the pennant in the National League Central, short-term opportunities should be seized.

        The addition of Denny Neagle and Houston's subtraction of Randy Johnson created starting pitching parity within the division. Getting Vaughn from San Diego gives the Reds a first-strike capability nearly comparable to the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. The Reds still have several holes — an uncertain infield, a nondescript bullpen — but for the first time in several seasons, they also have hope.

        Vaughn hit 50 home runs for the Padres last season, becoming the eighth player in National League history to reach that plateau. His achievement was largely obscured by the record-setting feats of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but it could not have been lost on Reds General Manager Jim Bowden.

Reds needed slugger
        “We are very excited to get our cleanup hitter,” Bowden said at Tuesday's press conference. “We think with that acquisition ... the Cincinnati Reds can compete.”

        Vaughn's 1998 output was more than twice that of the Reds' leading home run hitter last season (Bret Boone), and nearly three times that of the ranking slugger still on the Cincinnati roster (Barry Larkin). It may also be more than he can duplicate. Yet Vaughn hit 41 home runs between Milwaukee and San Diego in 1996 and 30 for the Brewers in 1993.

        He gives the Reds their first legitimate cleanup hitter since Kevin Mitchell, enables Bowden to get rid of the underachieving Reggie Sanders, and should stifle Larkin's persistent lobbying for a trade.

        Because Vaughn is a left fielder, Dmitri Young will be moved to right field, and center fielder Mike Cameron will consequently be expected to cover more ground than Vasco da Gama. (Proposal: Move the fences in. Give Vaughn and Young less room to defend and shorter distances to swat. Jump-start Vaughn's shot at McGwire's record).

        Presumably, Jeffrey Hammonds and Michael Tucker will log a lot of innings as defensive replacements. Theoretically, Vaughn should create a lot of leads for Hammonds and Tucker to defend.

Not sacrificing future
        “I'm ecstatic,” said John Allen, the Reds managing executive and chief budget balancer. “People love to see home runs, and his (Vaughn's) performance alone should sell some tickets. Our hope is it brings our team to another level.”

        Bringing Vaughn aboard increases the Reds' financial uncertainty for 1999, but it also raises the possibility of additional revenues. His salary will push the club's player payroll beyond $30 million, but Allen said he can still project a profit without raising his turnstile expectations.

        Should Vaughn stimulate ticket sales and/or pennant contention, he could easily justify the Reds' additional investment. Should his impact be more modest, the Reds could still trade Vaughn. Failing that, they could allow him to leave as a free agent and receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

        The downside danger is of Sanders finding himself in Mission Valley. This would seem a risk worth running.

        “We really have not deviated from our game plan,” Allen said. “We have not cut anything (else) to make this deal per se. We have not traded away our future. We haven't cut back in the Dominican (Republic) or Mexico.”

        What's not to like?

        Enquirer columnist Tim Sullivan welcomes your E-mail. Message him at tsullivan@enquirer.com.



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Reds hit homer with Vaughn trade Tim Sullivan column
NL Central, look out
Questions remain in outfield
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Payroll pushed past $30 million

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VAUGHN OF A NEW DAY

vaughn
GREG VAUGHN
• '98: .272, 50 HR, 119 RBI
Career stats


sweeney
MARK SWEENEY
• '98: .234, 2 HR, 15 RBI
Career stats

sanders
REGGIE SANDERS
• '98: .268, 14 HR, 59 RBI
Career stats

jackson
DAMIAN JACKSON
• '98: .262, 1 HR, 10 RBI

Trade coverage

Vaughn makes Reds contenders
Tell us what you think
Vaughn pleads: Let me keep my goatee
Vaughn era could be short or sweet
Infographic: New lineup
Reds hit homer with trade
Sullivan column
NL Central, look out
Questions remain in outfield
Sanders glad to move on
Notebook

Reds page