ATLANTA -- Making a move to address their lack of a leadoff hitter and add some insurance in case first baseman Andres Galarraga starts the season on the disabled list, the Atlanta Braves plucked San Diego's pocket again Wednesday.
Filling three needs in one fell swoop, the Braves acquired second baseman Quilvio Veras, outfielder Reggie Sanders and first baseman Wally Joyner and sent Bret Boone, Ryan Klesko and minor league pitcher Jason Shiell to the Padres.
"I think this is a pretty big move," said Braves general manager John Schuerholz, who stole Fred McGriff from the Padres in 1993. "This new alignment of players gives us more of a chance to be a better team offensively next year."
With leadoff man Gerald Williams signing with the Devil Rays last week, the Braves were forced to shop for a replacement and they came up with a good one. In the switch-hitting Veras, 28, the Braves acquired a true leadoff hitter who batted .280, stole 30 bases and posted a .368 on-base percentage last season. Sanders, 32, who will hit in the No. 2 hole and play left field, blends speed and power, having averaged 19 homers and 24 stolen bases over the last eight years.
"We think our run creation and production capability is better," Schuerholz said. "Our team is going to be speedier and a little more athletic."
Adding Veras and Sanders greatly enhances the team's speed. They each stole more bases last season than Otis Nixon, the club's steals leader, and they give the Braves a potent 1-2 punch ahead of National League MVP Chipper Jones.
"The lineup we're going to have, oh my God," said Sanders, who grew up in Florence, S.C. "It's going to be awesome. I think it's a great thing being traded to the Braves."
Grabbing Joyner, whom Schuerholz has long coveted, sends a message the club is concerned about Galarraga's recovery. Though doctors say the lymphoma has been eradicated from a bone in his lower back, they are uncertain how quickly the bone will recover from the radiation and chemotherapy.
By dealing for Joyner, who slumped to a .248 average, five homers and 43 RBI in 110 games last season, the Braves have a veteran first baseman if Galarraga's return is delayed or he's unable to make a comeback after 18 months away.
"We're all very hopeful that Andres will be able to come back and assume full duty at first base," Schuerholz said. "That is still sort of an unknown set of circumstances. The fact of the matter is, with the questions about Andre, we have a guy who's qualified to give us quality at first base."
Joyner, 37, who grew up in Stone Mt., Ga., is a career .290 hitter whose best years are behind him. Last season he was bothered by a chip fracture in his left shoulder that hampered his swing, which led to the worst average and home run total of his 14-year career. Fully healthy, he's still a dangerous hitter, especially with runners in scoring position, and acknowledged as one of the finest defensive first basemen in the game.
"I don't have a doubt in my mind I can play much better than last year," Joyner said. "I am healthy now. There was some speculation that I've lost it, I'm too old, and I welcome that because it gives me incentive to prove everybody wrong."
Boone, whose stay in Atlanta was as disappointing as it was short, heads to a city he loves. The second baseman, who won a Gold Glove in 1998, but was charged with a career-high 13 errors last season, was born in El Cajon, Calif., and still has family in the San Diego area.
"I've been around long enough not to feel bad about it," he said. "It's a business deal. On one hand I'm leaving a great team, but I'm going to one of my favorite places. In this game you can't take things personally."
Klesko's career with the Braves was one of unfulfilled promise. A left-handed hitter who has never proved he can hit left-handers, he failed to build on a 34-homer, 93-RBI season in 1996 and he'll be remembered in Atlanta for lengthy home runs and equally impressive strikeouts.
Shiell, 23, spent last season at Class A Myrtle Beach, where he was 6-7 with a 3.77 ERA.
While the deal brings the Braves three quality players, it also adds to a payroll that ranked among the game's biggest last season. Joyner is due to make $3.3 million next year, Sanders will be paid $3.7 million and can be a free agent following the season and Veras is arbitration eligible after making $2 million last year.
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