Trades are tough on big leaguers

Jul 30 2011 - 9:41pm

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(MARK DUNCAN/The Associated Press) Los Angeles starting pitcher Dan Haren looks on from the dugout during Monday’s victory.
(MARK DUNCAN/The Associated Press) Los Angeles starting pitcher Dan Haren looks on from the dugout during Monday’s victory.

Dan Haren is a veteran of nine big league seasons, a three-time All-Star with a four-year, $45-million contract, so the image of the pitcher lugging dirty laundry to his in-laws' house like some home-for-the-weekend college student seems a little far-fetched.

But that's exactly what the 30-year-old Haren did several times during the final two months of the 2010 season, after his July 25 trade last summer from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Angels.

Haren, who is married with two young children, owns a home in Phoenix, and with the Angels trying to catch the Texas Rangers in the American League West, he knew he wouldn't have the time and energy to relocate his family to Orange County right away.

So he spent the final two months of last season living in hotels, at home and on the road, coordinating visits from his wife and kids, renting cars when needed and taking advantage of the washer and dryer at his in-laws' West Covina home.

"When I needed to do laundry I went there," Haren said. "Or when we went on a road trip, I'd pack one suitcase with dirty clothes, leave it with them, take the clean clothes with me, and then switch out suitcases when I got back.

"It wasn't fun living out of a hotel for so long. We knew it would be hard for two months, but it would be worth it."

With the flurry of deals before Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline, another batch of players, including Carlos Beltran, Edwin Jackson, Colby Rasmus and Kosuke Fukudome, must cope with the distractions and challenges of switching teams on the fly.

For second baseman Mark Ellis, traded from Oakland to Colorado on June 30, the transition was fairly smooth.

A .217 hitter with the A's, Ellis went 11 for 22 with two home runs and seven runs batted in during his first five games with the Rockies and is batting .286 with his new club.

"It was easy for me -- I just got on a plane and went and played baseball," Ellis said this past week in Dodger Stadium. "My wife packed up our place in San Francisco, got the moving company lined up, oversaw the guys loading the truck and found a new place in Denver. I was able to concentrate on baseball."

Colorado outfielder Ty Wigginton struggled after being dealt from the New York Mets to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2004, going five for 40 in his first 12 games with the Pirates, but he couldn't blame the physical move.

"My wife was in Atlanta with me, she flew back to New York, packed up the apartment, packed up the car, drove to Pittsburgh and found a furnished apartment in a few days," Wigginton said. "I pretty much had my baseball bag and was off to Pittsburgh.

"What was really hard was going from the Mets, who were within three games of (the) wild card, to Pittsburgh, which was not in the race. I was naive enough to think I was going to be a Met for life, so that was difficult."

The Dodgers' Casey Blake, who came from Cleveland at the trade deadline in 2008, says, "The hard stuff is going to a clubhouse where you don't know anybody."

At the time the only Dodger he knew was backup catcher Danny Ardoin, a former minor league teammate.

"It's like being the new kid in school. It's really tough," he says. "At first, I was like, 'This stinks,' not knowing this was probably the best thing to happen to me in my career."

Matt Stairs, who has played for a record-tying 12 organizations, this week was designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals. Stairs says most players welcome new teammates with open arms -- or sometimes with beer, which is what he found in his locker the first time he reported to the Detroit Tigers in 2006.

But when he got to Philadelphia two years later, the reception was a bit more strained. The Phillies lockered him with Clay Condrey, whom Stairs had victimized for a home run when he played for Toronto.

"That's great," Condrey said in place of hello. "Now I have to share a locker with the guy who hit a grand slam off me."

Condrey quickly got over that, especially when Stairs hit another big home run, this one off the Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton in the National League Championship Series, to help the Phillies en route to winning the World Series.

And new teammates aren't the only people to which players must adjust. Former reliever Todd Jones, who played for eight teams during a 16-year career, said the first questions he asked in a new clubhouse were about which journalists and which trainers he could trust.

"I never really had a problem with anybody," the Dodgers' Blake says. "But when I got here, some guys warned me a little bit."

Warned him about whom, he was asked. But Blake, still trying to fit in, remained diplomatic.

"They warned me," he said with a smile. "Just put it that way."

Changing teams is never easy, even for as experienced a mover as Russell Branyan -- he's been traded during the season four times and switched teams in-season five other times in his 12-year career. Branyan was given ample opportunity to earn regular playing time with the Angels, starting six of eight games after signing with them on May 26.

But the 35-year-old stumbled, going three for 23 (.130) with nine strikeouts, hindering his chances of earning a platoon role at first base or significant time at designated hitter.

"The superstar guys have a lot of stuff taken care of by people (after a move) -- they can just focus on the game," Branyan said. "The majority of us are trying to get everything picked up, moved, settled in to a new place. It makes it tough that first week to focus on the game."

Teams do what they can to ease the transition, but much of the burden of moving falls on the player and his family.

For players acquired in trades during the season, baseball's collective bargaining agreement requires teams to provide first-class air travel to report to the new club, seven days of meal money and first-class hotel accommodations for the first seven days after the trade.

Players also receive a moving allowance, which varies depending on how far a player travels to get to his new team.

"It's not as much as you think," Haren said. "You have to figure it all out -- when you're family is going to come, how you're going to get a car here, where you're going to stay.

"We make a lot of money and can afford to fly our families everywhere. But there's a perception that we have everything done for us. That's not the case."

In addition to booking hotel rooms, Tom Taylor, the Angels' traveling secretary, provides newly acquired players with contacts for corporate housing, apartment communities, moving companies, car shippers and real estate agents.

He does not get involved with anything personal, such as the forwarding of mail or paying of bills.

"We try to make the move as easy as possible," Taylor said

Players appreciate the assistance.

"Some teams do a little more, some do the minimum," Branyan said. "But it's always nice to have that club that takes the time and really cares about you as a person and not just as a ballplayer."

The most stressful part of the move to Anaheim, Branyan said, was finding a short-term lease on an affordable home big enough to accommodate his family, which includes three kids, ages 7, 4 and 20 months; his wife, who is pregnant; and a dog.

"Some cities are really good about letting you get into a short-term lease or a furnished place; some cities are tougher," said Branyan, who has never made more than $1.5 million a season. "Here, it was really tough finding a short-term lease away from the beach, where all the rentals are like $12,000 a month."

Because Branyan was released by Arizona and then signed with the Angels, none of his moving expenses were paid for.

"These guys who stay with one organization for their whole career, they're spoiled," Branyan said. "It's a lot of work when you get traded. It's tough on our wives. It's tough on our families."

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