The New York Mets acquired Johnny Estrada from Milwaukee for reliever Guillermo Mota on Tuesday, moving quickly to plug their hole at catcher after talks with Yorvit Torrealba collapsed.
Estrada batted .278 with 10 homers and 54 RBIs for the Brewers this year. He is eligible for arbitration this winter and can become a free agent after the 2008 season.
"Johnny adds depth to our catching situation," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "He's a former All-Star who switch-hits and has hit over .300 three times in his career."
Mota served a 50-game steroids suspension at the beginning of the season and finished 2-2 with a 5.76 ERA in 52 appearances. Often booed at home, the 34-year-old right-hander struck out 47 and walked 18 in 59 1-3 innings.
"We are getting a quality relief pitcher who can pitch out of the back of the pen," Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said. "We have been looking for a pitcher who can give us multiple innings, and last season Mota showed he could do that, pitching 2.0 innings 13 times."
The trade leaves Paul Lo Duca, New York's starting backstop the past two seasons, looking for a job elsewhere. Last week, the Mets re-signed Ramon Castro to be their backup catcher again, though he could get more playing time now than he did behind Lo Duca.
The 31-year-old Estrada had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Oct. 4 to repair a torn meniscus. He also had a bone spur removed from his right elbow. The operations were performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
Estrada threw out only 11 of 84 basestealers (13 percent) in his lone season with the Brewers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and he also lacks discipline at the plate. He drew just 12 walks despite getting 442 at-bats, leaving him with a meager .296 on-base percentage.
Torrealba appeared set to become New York's No. 1 catcher when he and the Mets reached a preliminary agreement last week on a $14.4 million, three-year contract that was subject to a physical.
The Mets said Saturday they had ended negotiations with Torrealba, leading to speculation that a medical exam left them with concerns about his throwing shoulder. Torrealba, who helped Colorado reach the World Series this year, missed nearly three months in 2006 with a strained right shoulder.
"I'm just going to say that we couldn't get a deal done," Minaya said Monday.
An All-Star in 2004 with Atlanta, the slow-footed Estrada is a .280 career hitter with 42 homers and 281 RBIs in 589 games spanning seven major league seasons. He has spent his entire career in the National League, also playing for Philadelphia and Arizona.
Estrada made $3.4 million this year. Mota is guaranteed $3.2 million next season, then can become a free agent.
The Mets acquired the 6-foot-6 Mota in August 2006 after he struggled with Cleveland, but he pitched extremely well down the stretch to help New York wrap up an NL East title.
News of his positive test for a performance-enhancing substance surfaced after the season, and Mota said he felt terrible for making a mistake. Knowing he would be suspended for the first 50 games of 2007, the Mets re-signed Mota to a $5 million, two-year contract.
Mota is 28-29 with a 3.91 ERA and seven saves in nine major league seasons with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida, Cleveland and the Mets. Since 2002, he ranks fourth among big league relievers with 444 1-3 innings pitched.