Torres traded, but weighing retirement
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Just because Salomon Torres was traded to Milwaukee does not mean he has to go.
Torres, dealt by the Pirates yesterday for relief prospects Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts, said afterward he is considering retirement as much as he is considering reporting to the Brewers, even though he is guaranteed $3.2 million next year.
His reason: He is uncertain how a move will affect his family, which lives year-round in the North Hills.
"It's a giant move, and I have to make a decision if I want to go forward," Torres said. "This is going to change my life, my family's life. If I leave them here, they're going to have to be without me for a full year. If I take them with me, they're going to be affected."
Torres made clear he was not close to a decision, adding it might take several days or more.
"I just need to talk to my family. I can tell you this: If I go to Milwaukee, I'm going to give my heart and soul to the Brewers," he said. "If I stay, I'll be the same way. I'll be the one playing with my daughters and son and maybe even doing some of the cooking. It's a big decision, and I'm going to base it on my family."
Torres, a devoutly religious man who wears his heart on his sleeve, and his wife, Belkis, have two daughters, 4 and 6, and a 2-month-old son. That is one factor. Another is that Torres, 36, has spoken of retirement previously, having mentioned several times last season that he planned to pitch for only one more year. Also, remember that he retired in mid-career for three years before the Pirates signed him in 2002.
Once the trade was completed, shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, Torres became Milwaukee property. Thus, if he retires, he will do so as a member of that team. The Brewers could appeal for a reversal of the trade, but precedents show they likely would lose.
Milwaukee officials attempted last night to sway Torres. Jack Zduriencik, the Brewers' scouting director and a New Castle native who knows Torres, had a lengthy phone conversation with him.
"I think it's all the emotion right now," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said last night. "When he talked to Jack, he said he was thrilled to be coming to the Brewers. I'm hoping he gets over this. All indications he gave Jack were that he wanted to come."
Torres, who had the longest tenure of any active Pirates player other than shortstop Jack Wilson, ended his Pittsburgh career with 358 appearances to rank 10th on the franchise's all-time list. He was one of Major League Baseball's most effective and durable middle relievers in 2004-06, tying Kent Tekulve's team record with 94 appearances in 2006.
But, after an offseason in which he admittedly failed to get into peak shape, Torres struggled in 2007. He lost his job as closer in May and finished with a 5.47 ERA in 56 appearances, the smaller workload due to recurring elbow tendonitis.
"Salomon Torres had a solid career with the Pirates, and we wish him well in the future," general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement.
Torres had his differences with the Pirates, notably the grievance he filed in March accusing the team of "tricking" him out of $1.5 million he was owed on his current contract. He said at the time that former general manager Dave Littlefield promised the Pirates would rent one of his two baseball academies in the Dominican Republic in return for a discount on his contract. The team denied that and was prepared to contest it, but Torres said in August he no longer would pursue the grievance.
Lingering feelings from that dispute, however, could have contributed to the team's decision to trade Torres. The Pirates' brass is stressing a change in the team's "culture," and this move came one day after unhappy, unproductive infielder Jose Castillo was released.
Financially, the Pirates shave a $3.5 million commitment -- Torres' salary next season and a $3.75 million club option for 2009 with a $300,000 buyout -- but team officials were adamant that money was not a factor. And there is ample cause to believe that, given that the bullpen now lacks any reliable right-handed reliever other than closer Matt Capps. Finding so many compeitent arms will be costly.
Salas, a 26-year-old right-hander, had 17 saves and a 2.77 ERA in 51 appearances last season, split between Class AA Huntsville and Class AAA Nashville. He has 82 saves and a 3.59 career ERA in six minor-league seasons.
Roberts, a 23-year-old right-hander, had a 3.44 ERA in 45 appearances last season for Brevard County in high Class A. Since being Milwaukee's fifth pick in the 2005 draft, he has 12 saves a 4.07 ERA in 101 appearances, including 19 starts.
Huntington called Salas and Roberts "two young relief pitchers who provide us with quality depth, options and multiple years of control," but neither is expected to reach the majors next season.
Neither Salas nor Roberts ranked among Milwaukee's top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America's analysis last month, but the Brewers' scouting staff -- among the best in the business -- is known to think highly of Roberts' potential.
First Published December 8, 2007 12:00 am