Nationals to Trade Vidro for Prospects
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006; 7:24 PM
The Washington Nationals took a major step toward freeing room on their future payroll and breaking loose a logjam in the middle infield, agreeing to trade second baseman Jose Vidro -- who has spent his entire career with the Montreal-Washington organization -- to the Seattle Mariners for a pair of prospects that could contribute to the 2007 team, Vidro said in a telephone interview tonight.
The trade -- which is pending a physical for Vidro, expected to take place Thursday -- is a textbook example of what the Nationals say they are trying to do, eschewing success in 2007 but stockpiling players that might contribute in the future. According to sources familiar with the deal, the Nationals are due to receive Chris Snelling, a 25-year-old outfielder with a history of injuries, and Emiliano Fruto, a 22-year-old right-handed reliever with an exceptional changeup, in exchange for Vidro.
Nearly as important for Washington, however, is that Seattle has agreed to pay $12 million of the remaining $16 million left on Vidro's contract for 2007 and '08. Because of the amount of money exchanging hands, the commissioner's office had to approve the deal before it could go through, and officials there have been aware of it for several days.
The Nationals -- who already have infielders Felipe Lopez and Cristian Guzman under their control for those two seasons -- have been trying to free up money by unloading Vidro since at least the middle of last season.
"I'm very excited," Vidro said by phone. "I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to go to the American League and play for a team that has a pretty good shot. They have a legitimate lineup, and they're going to sign some pitchers. It's looking very good."
Nationals officials either had no knowledge of the deal or no comment on it late today. General Manager Jim Bowden did not immediately return phone calls and emails seeking comment on the trade. Team President Stan Kasten, reached by phone, had no comment.
All sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal hadn't yet been announced.
Vidro is a .301 career hitter who, as recently as 2002, was among the premier offensive second basemen in the game. But a series of injuries to his legs -- including chronic knee problems that hindered him in 2004 and an ankle injury that cost him nearly half of 2005 -- have slowed him in recent years. Since the franchise arrived in Washington for the 2005 season, Vidro hit .284 with a .407 slugging percentage in 213 games for the Nationals. His power, which in 2000 produced 51 doubles and 24 homers, was noticeably diminished as his leg problems prevented him from driving the ball.
"I was sorry that I didn't get to be as healthy as I would like to have been in Washington," Vidro said.
Snelling was a favorite prospect of former Mariners manager Lou Piniella, and he might have been a starting outfielder in Seattle if not for his battles with injuries. From 2000-05, he was injured at least once ever year with such disparate maladies as hand fractures, a broken ankle, wrist problems, elbow tendinitis. Twice, in 2002 and 2005, he tore his left anterior cruciate ligament.
Snelling split his time between Class AAA Tacoma and Seattle in 2006, hitting .250 with three homers in 96 at-bats for the Mariners. He has spent parts of three seasons in the majors.
Fruto went 2-2 with a 5.50 ERA in 23 appearances for the Mariners last season as a rookie, when he also made 28 appearances for Tacoma. He has a reputation for an outstanding changeup and should be added to a Nationals bullpen that is likely to be the strength of the 2007 club.