Phil Nevin went from the Padres to the Texas Rangers for pitcher Chan Ho Park on July 30 after having been unsuccessfully traded multiple times previously. Earlier that month, Nevin exercised the no-trade clause in his contract to block a deal to the Baltimore Orioles for troubled starting pitcher Sidney Ponson before being shuffled to the Rangers. Two years ago, Nevin nixed a deal that Pads' GM Kevin Towers had worked out with the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Ken Griffey and his name had come up in other rumored deals, as well.
In an interview this week, General Manager Walt Jocketty was far more forthcoming than usual in his frank assessment that the Cardinals needed a number four hitter, one who could drive in runs and play the corner outfield positions or third base. However, Jocketty warned that a superstar addition should not be expected.
I have learned from an informed source that Nevin is a target of the Cardinals' interest. The 34-year-old fits Jocketty's stated criteria to the letter.
Nevin has demonstrated the kind of versatility that the Cardinals love. He can play both corner outfield positions and both corner infield positions. He came up as a catcher and perhaps as punishment, he was put by the Pads in their lineup for two games behind the plate during the period between the Orioles and Rangers' trades.
Yet, Nevin has not played third base regularly since 2002 and is only considered an emergency catcher at this point. Much of his recent play has been at first base, but he split his time equally between first and the outfield during an injury-plagued 2003 season. With the Rangers, he has primarily been their designated hitter.
In recent years, injuries had been the main bugaboo of Nevin, as he played just 107 games in 2002 and 59 games in 2003. This season, he has missed time with a sore back, stomach flu and a strained oblique muscle that landed him on the disabled list.
However, ineffectiveness has surpassed injury to become Nevin's greatest demon in 2005. He had driven in more than 100 runs in each of his past three healthy seasons, including 2004, so he is a proven RBI man. But, that past success did not carry over into 2005.
This season, Nevin hit just .256 with nine home runs and 47 RBI in 289 at-bats with the Padres. Since the trade, despite playing in a hitters' haven in Arlington, Nevin has really struggled with adjusting to American League pitching. His current mark is a paltry .200, with just two home runs and seven RBI in 75 AL at-bats.
To make matters worse for Nevin, the Rangers have fallen out of the playoff chase since his arrival and recently called up prize prospect Adrian Gonzalez, who is sure to cut into what little playing time Nevin might have earned the rest of the way.
For that reason, Nevin could be expendable. However, his contract may be the largest inhibitor to any deal. His no trade clause is a limited one, prohibiting his movement to just eight teams. It is assumed that the Cardinals are not one of them. However, Nevin's salary is hefty. This season, he was owed $9 million and next year's bounty goes up to $10 million.
Surely the Cards would not take on that kind of commitment without Texas paying some of the load. The Rangers may or may not be willing to do that, given they've only had Nevin for less than a month.
Then there is the matter of Nevin clearing waivers, a prerequisite to any trade at this point of the season. While several dozen players who have cleared waivers have been named by ESPN's Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark, Nevin's name is not among them. That doesn't mean that he hasn't cleared – only that we don't know.
So, there is no guarantee that Nevin will be in Cardinal red next week. At this point, it is only a rumor. But, an interesting one, it is.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.