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BASEBALL NOTES

White Sox Get Koch in Trade

December 04, 2002|From Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics sent closer Billy Koch to the Chicago White Sox in a six-player trade Tuesday, dumping a big salary with an eye toward future payrolls.

"My initial reaction was, 'What's a guy got to do to stay with the team?' " said Koch, who was traded to Oakland by Toronto last December. "It's sort of frustrating, but then you turn around and look at it as a new start."

In exchange for Koch and two minor leaguers, the Athletics got White Sox closer Keith Foulke, catcher Mark Johnson, minor league right-hander Joe Valentine and cash.

The deal is a financial wash for the A's next season because of the cash from Chicago, but it allows Oakland to free up money in the future.

Koch had a $2.35 million base salary last season and made $150,000 in performance bonuses.

Eligible for salary arbitration for the next three seasons, Koch is expected to see his salary double this winter and go up even more in future years.

Foulke is due $6 million next season but then becomes eligible for free agency.

"If you look at our payroll after this year and the forecast for where Billy's salary is going to go, it's unrealistic to believe we could have held onto him," Oakland General Manager Billy Beane said.

Koch, 27, has emerged as one of the American League's top closers, becoming the first to start his career with four consecutive 30-save seasons.

He had an 11-4 record with 44 saves in 50 save opportunities last season. His 11 victories were tops among major league relievers, and he led the AL with 84 appearances. Only Minnesota's Eddie Guardado had more saves in the AL, with 45.

In four seasons, Koch is 22-17 with 144 saves and a 3.48 earned-run average.

Foulke saved a career-high 42 games in 2001 and ranks third on the White Sox saves list, but he struggled last season and lost his closer role in early June. He went from June 27 to Sept. 17 without a save, and finished with 11. He was 2-4 with a 2.90 ERA.

Foulke did regain some of his old form at the end of the season, not giving up an earned run in his last 17 2/3 innings.

*

First baseman Jim Thome, fighting back tears, said the desire to win caused him to leave Cleveland and sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"Obviously, everyone knew my ties in Cleveland. And this was a very, very difficult decision," Thome, 32, said at a news conference. "It comes down to winning. It really does."

The Phillies, unwilling to spend money in the past, are aggressively trying to improve as they prepare to move into their new ballpark in 2004. They agreed to a $17-million, four-year contract with third baseman David Bell on Nov. 24. Philadelphia also has a $30-million, three-year offer out to free-agent left-hander Tom Glavine, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner.

The Phillies sold 240 season tickets Monday and 480 Tuesday.

Among fans, Manager Larry Bowa said, "this is the most excitement I've seen since Pete Rose came here as a player." Rose joined the Phillies in 1979 and helped them win the World Series in 1980.

*

As expected, left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger finalized a $10.65-million, three-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, who are hoping he will bolster a bullpen that squandered 25 saves last season.

Remlinger was 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 73 games with the Atlanta Braves last season.

*

Japanese outfielder Hideki Matsui, who had planned to negotiate a major league contract without an agent, is expected to hire Arn Tellem to represent him.

"I haven't signed a contract yet, but we basically have an agreement," Matsui said.

Tellem, based in Santa Monica, is part of a group headed by Randy Hendricks.

Matsui, 28, said three major league teams have expressed interest in talking to him -- the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox.

*

Jerry Narron, fired as manager of the Texas Rangers after last season, was hired as bench coach of the Red Sox.

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