Snelling, Fruto heading to Washington

Nationals acquire Snelling, Fruto from M's

WASHINGTON -- A trade agreed upon almost two weeks ago came to fruition on Monday, as the Nationals acquired outfielder Chris Snelling and right-hander Emiliano Fruto from the Mariners in exchange for second baseman Jose Vidro, who completed his physical in Miami on the same day.

Vidro has two years left on his contract, and Seattle will pick up $12 million of the $16 million remaining on his deal.

"This deal gives us payroll flexibility in both 2007 and 2008," Nationals general manager Jim Bowden said. "It gives us the opportunity to acquire two young prospects, who have a chance to compete for a roster spot for both '07 and '08."

The deal needed Vidro's approval because he has a no-trade clause that stated he could not be traded to Seattle. After receiving the news from his agent, Seth Levinson, on Dec. 8, Vidro spoke to Mariners manager Mike Hargrove that same day on the phone, and the skipper told him that he would be a designated hitter and a backup at third, second and first base.

Vidro then had a discussion with his wife, Annette, who told him to go to Seattle. Vidro called Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen last Tuesday and informed him that he was going to approve the trade. The two played together in Washington for two years. For accepting the deal, Vidro was given a vesting option for 2009.

Vidro became expendable in the Nationals' eyes because his range deteriorated at second and he became a singles hitter, who had problems driving in runs. Vidro has a reputation of being a doubles machine who drives in a lot of runs.

Toward the end of the season, Vidro spent most of the time either on the bench or playing first base.

Snelling, 25, has some big-league experience. In 59 games, he's hit .237 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. Snelling comes with caution: He has been injury-prone during his eight years in professional baseball. Snelling has had 10 surgeries, seven of which were on his left knee. He originally hurt the knee in 2002 by tearing his ACL while trying to stop at third base.

"It was tough. I believe everything happens for a reason. Hopefully, it's all behind me," Snelling said about the injuries. "I've done what I had to do to get back on the baseball field. I'll do whatever it takes to make the team and win."

Snelling's best season was in 2001, when he hit .336 with seven home runs and 73 RBIs for Class A San Bernardino. Snelling had his worst season in 2006, hitting .216 with five home runs and 39 RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma. He is expected to compete with Kory Casto, Ryan Church and Alex Escobar for the left-field job.

Fruto, 22, pitched in 22 games for the Mariners this season and had a 5.50 ERA. Before his promotion, Fruto had a 3.18 ERA and struck out 55 batters in 45 1/3 innings for Triple-A Tacoma. He is known to have a good curveball and changeup.

"He has the stuff to be a good setup guy down the road," Bowden said. "We felt he was one of the better relief prospects in baseball. He was rushed to the big leagues last year."

The trade means shortstop Felipe Lopez will be switched to second base and Cristian Guzman will remain at shortstop.

Lopez, 26, made the decision almost two weeks ago after talking to general manager Jim Bowden on the phone and manager Manny Acta in a face-to-face meeting in Orlando. It was Bowden who explained to Lopez that Guzman has no experience at second base and that Lopez was the logical choice.

Lopez played 12 games at second base during his career, and there are people in the front office and scouts around the league who feel that he is a far superior second baseman and third baseman than he is a shortstop. Lopez is considered an average defensive shortstop.

"We thought he could be the long-term answer at second base," Bowden said. "Lopez is a 'put the team first and myself second' type of player. He will sacrifice himself to help the team win."

To make room for Fruto and Snelling on the 40-man roster, the Nationals outrighted catcher Brandon Harper to Triple-A Columbus. Harper was a pleasant surprise for the Nationals during the second half of the 2006 season, hitting .293 with two home runs and six RBIs.

The Nationals already acquired Jesus Flores in the Rule 5 Draft early this month, and he is the leading candidate to be the team's backup catcher.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.