Cleveland Indians Trade Third Baseman Matt Williams to Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Fryman
Cleveland Indians Trade Third Baseman Matt Williams to Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Fryman and Tom MartinBy KEN BERGER
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Not long after he joined the Cleveland Indians, Matt Williams was served with divorce papers.
A year later, the haunting breakup of Williams’ eight-year marriage became the force behind a trade that sent him home to Arizona and the National League.
In a deal in which family concerns overshadowed money and winning, the Indians traded Williams to the Diamondbacks on Monday for Travis Fryman, left-hander Tom Martin and $3 million _ most of which essentially comes out of Williams’ pocket.
``The only situation that would accommodate my professional aspirations and the personal things I need to do for my kids was to come here,″ said Williams, who wanted to play in Phoenix so he could live near his three children.
Williams agreed to a $45 million, five-year contract extension with the Diamondbacks, sealing the deal by letting Arizona reduce his 1998 salary from about $7 million to $4.5 million.
``As a result, he’s here,″ said Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, who can put the savings toward the money Cleveland gets in the trade.
``It certainly has the feel of an unprecedented gesture,″ said Williams’ agent, Jeff Moorad.
Though unconventional, the trade seemed to satisfy everyone involved. The expansion Diamondbacks got a hometown star, and the Indians got value for a player who told them point blank he would not re-sign with them when his contract expired after next season.
``I’ve been doing this a long time, and there was no way,″ said Cleveland general manager John Hart, who used the same approach with a would-be free agent as he did with Kenny Lofton last spring.
Williams’ divorce began during spring training and was finalized at midseason. His three children live in Paradise Valley, Ariz., which is near Phoenix.
Williams, 32, batted .263 with 32 homers and 105 RBIs in his only season with Cleveland. The Indians got him from San Francisco in a five-player deal on Nov. 13, 1996 to guard against the departure of Albert Belle. Within a week, Belle signed with the Chicago White Sox.
So on top of the pressure of a failed marriage and its effect on his kids, Williams was quickly labeled as the man to replace the Indians’ career home run leader.
``I’m certainly not the only one who’s been through a divorce,″ said Williams, who contemplated retiring after ’98 if he couldn’t play in Arizona. ``But it’s not easy, for me anyway, to be without my kids. They are the most important thing, without a doubt, in my life.″
Though he was batting only .239 at the end of July, Williams played brilliant defense at third base en route to winning his fourth Gold Glove.
His quiet leadership helped completely reverse the atmosphere in the Cleveland clubhouse, which was crowded with attitudes and egos during the Belle era. Under the steady influence of Williams, Marquis Grissom and David Justice, the Indians won their second AL pennant in three years.
Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said he was proud to have Williams because of ``all he stands for as a player and a person.″
Hart tried to trade Williams to Arizona during the expansion draft, but the deal fell apart. He felt even more compelled to trade Williams once he found out his salary demands.
``They said $10 million a year, and they might give Arizona a hometown deal,″ said Hart, flabbergasted by this latest twist in player-management negotiations. ``Even if he wanted to sign here, we couldn’t do it. I’d rather allocate our money somewhere else.″
Hart said he wants to add two starting pitchers through trade or free-agent signing during the rest of the offseason.
Williams’ extension calls for him to get $8 million in 1999, $8.5 million in 2000, $9 million in 2001, $9.5 million in 2002 and $10 million in 2003. He has an outright no-trade clause, and 25 percent of the money is deferred.
Fryman, 28, was acquired by Arizona from the Detroit Tigers on Nov. 18 in a trade the night of the expansion draft. He hit .274 last season with 22 homers and 102 RBIs, topping 20 homers and 100 RBIs for the second straight season.
Fryman will make $6.5 million in 1998, the final year of his $25 million, five-year contract. Hart said he was not ready to talk with Fryman about an extension yet.
``I hope it gets done,″ Fryman said. ``To be in the midst of that lineup will be a real treat.″
Martin, 27, was 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA for Houston last season. He was selected by the Diamondbacks with their first pick of the second round of the expansion draft.
Meanwhile, the Indians on Monday also exercised their $2 million 1999 option for right-hander Mike Jackson, their most consistent reliever, who posted a 0.68 ERA in the postseason.
If the Indians had declined the option, they would have had to pay a $200,000 buyout.
Jackson was 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA and career-high 15 saves in 1997.