Tom Lasorda heard about it while attending a banquet in Niles, Ohio. Even for an epicurean like Lasorda, who will open his own restaurant Feb. 15 in Marina del Rey, it was hard to digest.
How could the Montreal Expos trade relief ace Jeff Reardon to the Minnesota Twins for Neal Heaton, whose major league record is 39-56?
"I was with (Texas Ranger Manager) Bobby Valentine, (Cleveland Indian Manager) Pat Corrales and (Pittsburgh Pirate Manager) Jim Leyland," Lasorda said. "None of us could figure it out. It was a real surprise.
"I mean, where do you find a guy with 70 saves in two years. I don't understand it.
"The Twins made an outstanding trade."
The Dodgers had tried for a similar steal at the December baseball meetings, reportedly offering Rick Honeycutt and/or Alejandro Pena and/or Gilberto Reyes for Reardon.
The Expos asked for Orel Hershiser, ending the talks.
"Reardon wasn't our priority," Lasorda said. "Ever since we lost Steve Howe, we've needed a left -handed relief pitcher to set up the right-handed hitters. Now, we feel we've filled that need with Matt Young. Bill Buckner called me and said, 'Tommy, I just can't hit that guy.' "
Still . . .
Reardon for Heaton?
"I couldn't believe it, but I can't worry about the furniture in someone else's house," Lasorda said.
Reardon actually registered a major league-leading 76 saves over the last two years. He and Goose Gossage are the only relievers with 20 or more saves in each of the last five years. The Expos, having already lost Tim Raines and Andre Dawson to free agency, dumped another $575,000 by trading Reardon.
The Expos believe they can replace Reardon with a committee of Tim Burke, 9-7 and 4 saves; Randy St. Claire, 2-0 and 1 save, and Andy McGaffigan, 10-5 and 2 saves. They also figure they had to strengthen a starting staff that may remain without Bryn Smith and Joe Hesketh, both still questionable because of 1986 injuries.
The Expos got Heaton, 26, on the recommendation of George Bamberger, former Milwaukee manager hired by Montreal recently as a pitching consultant.
"I think he's ready to be good," Bamberger said of Heaton, who gave up 26 homers en route to a 7-15 record in '86 and should definitely benefit by the move to Olympic Stadium, where there were 100 homers hit last year contrasted with 223 in the Metrodome.
In Toronto last week, only a snow storm or two away from Montreal, the Blue Jays seemed to make a similarly strange move, trading Damaso Garcia, an All-Star second baseman, to Atlanta for pitcher Craig McMurtry, who was 1-6 last year.
The Blue Jays, however, had soured on Garcia because of his lack of range on their artificial surface, his defensive passiveness, which reportedly disturbed the pitching staff, and a seemingly bad attitude that set in when Garcia was removed from the leadoff role at the start of last season.
Garcia's contract for $1.6 million over the next two years didn't enhance his status with the Blue Jays, who even tossed in Luis Leal and $400,000 to stimulate Atlanta's interest.
One of four young prospects--Mike Sharperson, Manny Lee, Nelson Liniano or Santiago Garcia--will replace Garcia, whose acquisition by the Braves has reportedly left veteran second baseman Glenn Hubbard expendable.
Both the Oakland A's and the Angels, looking for an experienced second baseman to platoon with Rob Wilfong for a year if Mark McLemore isn't ready, are believed interested in Hubbard.
Peter O'Malley asks why the Dodgers would want Raines when they already have a center fielder in Ken Landreaux.
Well, aside from Raines' proven offensive abilities, consider that in his seven full seasons in the majors, Raines has contributed 202 outfield assists. Landreaux has 52 assists in 10 seasons.
The Dodgers may ultimately replace Landreaux with Gary Redus, but a trade for the Philadelphia Phillie outfielder hinges on Pena's proving in spring training that he is sound.
Still without an offer elsewhere, catcher Bob Boone confides that the Angels told him that their final, $883,000 offer "would remain on the table," presumably meaning that it will be there for the taking if he remains unsigned on May 1, when he is eligible to re-sign with his former club.
"It's nice to fall back on but it's not my first choice," Boone said. "I want to have a job and go to spring training."
And if there is no job?
"I've had too many good things happen in my life and career. I'll never have bitterness," Boone said.
Show of class: Toronto General Manager Pat Gillick flew to the Dominican Republic so that he could take Damaso Garcia to dinner and tell him personally that a trade was imminent. The Braves have given Garcia uniform No. 5, formerly worn by now unemployed free agent Bob Horner.