Atlanta The Atlanta Braves, bolstering their defense for another run at the playoffs, acquired shortstop Rey Sanchez from the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday for a pair of minor leaguers.
The Braves wanted more stability and experience at shortstop after losing Rafael Furcal, the 2000 NL Rookie of the Year, to a season-ending shoulder injury just before the All-Star break.
"He's an outstanding defensive guy and he's always hit," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "No power or anything like that, but he's hit and it's hard to strike him out."
Atlanta sent right-handed pitcher Brad Voyles and second baseman Alejandro Machado to the Royals for the 33-year-old Sanchez, who was hitting .303 with no homers and 28 RBIs.
Voyles, 24, broke his right ankle in a fall just before spring training and didn't begin pitching until June 8. He had six saves and a 1.08 ERA in 15 games for Double-A Greenville.
Machado, a 19-year-old native of Venezuela, was in his third year with the Braves organization. He was hitting .272 with one homer and 23 RBIs in 81 games for Class-A Macon this season.
Braves general manager John Schuerholz was impressed with Sanchez's defensive numbers. He has just three errors this season after making four in 674 chances a year ago.
"It's hard to turn your back on a guy who can add that kind of defense to your club," Schuerholz said. "You want to have the strongest defense possible up the middle. We've won a lot of games with pitching and defense."
After Furcal was hurt, the Braves turned to Mark DeRosa, who began the season at Triple-A Richmond and had only 24 major league at-bats before this year.
DeRosa played well offensively, hitting .342 with one homer and 14 RBIs, but he also had five errors in 34 games. With that in mind, Schuerholz kept looking for a more experienced player.
"Mark DeRosa has come up and played as well as anybody anticipated, if not better," the GM said. "We just get deeper and stronger."
Cox said he wouldn't make any decisions about how he would alter his lineup until after Sanchez arrived. But DeRosa knows any decision will likely result in less playing time.
"In the short run it can't help me," DeRosa said. "But I really have not thought too much about it. Whatever role I have to play, I'll do it."
Kansas City manager Tony Muser said the Braves were getting one of the game's best-fielding shortstops.
"He might be as consistent and persistent in catching the baseball as any shortstop that I've ever been around," Muser said, "and I've been around some good ones like Mark Belanger and Cookie Rojas."
DeRosa also can play second base, which has been weakened by Quilvio Veras' plethora of ailments. He is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a strained rib cage, forcing the Braves to call up rookie Marcus Giles.
Sanchez, who is eligible for free agency after the season, had already traveled with his family to Chicago for the Royals' game Tuesday night against the White Sox.
The Braves allowed him to take his family back to Kansas City. He will join his new team for a game tonight in St. Louis.
"I really wanted to finish here, but we couldn't come to an agreement," Sanchez said. "I hate moves, especially when you have a family."
He looks forward to joining the Braves, however.
"Atlanta's a great team. It brings a lot of positives," Sanchez said. "They have so many good players and it's a very good environment. I'm going to Atlanta to help them win and try to be friends with everybody."
The Braves, seeking their 10th straight postseason appearance, began Tuesday with a three-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East.
Sanchez was set to make $2.3 million in the final year of his contract, which called for a $500,000 raise if he was traded. He turned down the Royals' offer to extend and was told he would be dealt.
Sanchez's fate was sealed when the Royals took part in a three-team deal last week, acquiring shortstop Neifi Perez from Colorado for Jermaine Dye.
"Once Neifi got here, you knew they were going to do something," Royals second baseman Luis Alicea said. "They are moving to a younger team."
Schuerholz refused to say which team would pick up the extra money in Sanchez's contract.
Sanchez started his career with the Texas Rangers and also played with the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants before signing with the Royals as a free agent before the 1999 season.
"I gave this organization the best I had," he said. "It's sad it has to come to this, but that's the way it is."