SEATTLE (AP) _ Seattle, which failed to repeat as AL West champion because it lacked enough starting pitching, acquired left-hander Jeff Fassero in a five-player trade with Montreal on Tuesday.
Fassero, 33, was the best pitcher on the Expos this season, going 15-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 34 starts. Montreal, deciding it wanted to lower its payroll even more, has committed itself to getting rid of its high-priced veterans.
The Mariners also got right-handed minor-league prospect Alex Pacheco from the Expos, sending catcher Chris Widger and pitchers Matt Wagner and Trey Moore to Montreal.
Before making the deal, Fassero and the Mariners agreed to a $13.5 million, three-year contract. He gets an $800,000 signing bonus, $3.2 million next season and $4.75 million in each of the final two years of the contract.
Seattle tried to acquire Fassero from Montreal before last season’s trading deadline, but the Expos wouldn’t give him up in their quest for the NL wild-card berth.
``We have liked Fassero for a number of years,″ Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. ``He was one of the top starters in the National League last year and will be a nice addition to our staff.″
The Mariners got top offensive years from Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez last season, winning a club-record 85 games. They drew a club-record 2.7 million fans, but they finished 4 1/2 games behind Texas in AL West and 2 1/2 games out in the wild-card race.
Seattle had a team ERA of 5.21, the worst in the club’s history, and pitching coach Bobby Cuellar was fired and replaced by Nardi Contreras.
The main reason for the pitching troubles was the loss of ’95 AL Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson, who made only eight starts because of an ailing back. He underwent surgery Sept. 12 to repair a bulging disc.
``Fassero has been the ace of the Expos’ staff the last two seasons and will step in nicely alongside Randy Johnson,″ Mariners general manager Woody Woodward said. ``It is no secret that starting pitching is our No. 1 priority this winter. With Jeff Fassero, we have taken a huge step in filling that need.″
Fassero has a career record of 58-48 and had five complete games last season _ one more complete game than the Mariners’ total. He was NL pitcher of the month in June and a July, and finished third in the NL in complete games and strikeouts (222). He allowed only 55 walks.
Pacheco, 23, was 2-2 with a 6.48 ERA in 33 games last season at Triple-A Ottawa.
``The youngster Pacheco throws real hard,″ Piniella said.
To get Fassero, the Mariners had to give up three top prospects in Wagner, 24; Widger, 25, and Moore, 24.
Wagner was 3-5 with a 6.98 ERA in 14 starts for Seattle last season and 9-2 with a 2.41 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Tacoma. Widger, a catcher in an organization behind All-Star Dan Wilson, hit .304 (107-for-352) with 13 homers and 48 RBIs at Tacoma.
Moore had a combined 8-11 record with a 5.41 ERA in 26 starts with Double-A Port City and Class A Lancaster.