Tim Hudson was traded from the Oakland Athletics to Atlanta, a blockbuster deal yesterday that further bolstered the Braves' revamped rotation. Los Angeles, Boston and the New...

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Tim Hudson was traded from the Oakland Athletics to Atlanta, a blockbuster deal yesterday that further bolstered the Braves’ revamped rotation.

Los Angeles, Boston and the New York Yankees were rumored to be pursuing Hudson, but the Braves swooped in and got the Oakland ace for outfielder Charles Thomas and pitchers Juan Cruz and Dan Meyer.

With the A’s facing yet another payroll crunch, general manager Billy Beane finally broke up his “Big Three” starting pitchers of Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.

It was Atlanta’s second big trade in a week. Last Saturday, the Braves acquired All-Star closer Dan Kolb from Milwaukee — a move that allowed them to move John Smoltz back into the rotation.

Moments after the trade was announced, the Braves unveiled another deal — they sent outfielder Eli Marrero and cash to Kansas City for pitcher Jorge Vasquez.

The Braves began the day by reaching agreement with Smoltz on a two-year contract.

The A’s wanted to make sure they acquired a pitcher — Meyer — who could compete right away for a spot in the rotation.

“Meyer has pitched at every level successfully,” Beane said. “He has a sterling track record up to this point, and he’s a guy we’ve always liked.”

The Georgia-born Hudson, 29, joins a team that has won 13 straight division titles. The right-hander posted 81 wins from 2000-04, tied for the most in the American League over that span. He is 92-39 with a 3.30 earned-run average lifetime.

“This was the most difficult phone call I’ve ever had with a player about a trade or a departure,” Beane said. “I spent a lot of time on the phone with him. It was very difficult. We’re going to miss him, there’s no question. I don’t think the expectation is that we’ll be able to replace his personality and exactly what he brought to this franchise the last five years.”

Las Vegas, Portland step to plate

If political differences cost Washington, D.C., a chance to get baseball, other locales are ready to make a run at the team known as the Montreal Expos last season.

“We’re moving fast and furious and are looking at financial options, private and public-private,” Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman said.

The Washington Nationals’ operation in the nation’s capital has been shut down because the District of Columbia Council voted to change its stadium-financing plan, requiring 50 percent of the financing to be private. Baseball had previously reached agreement with the city in which public bonds would finance all of the stadium costs.

The deadline is Dec. 31 for the council to come up with a financial plan baseball will accept.

If the team doesn’t move to Washington, officials in Las Vegas and Portland said it is possible to have a team play in their minor-league parks in 2005.

Drew Mahalic, the CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority, said Portland’s PGE Park, home to the San Diego Padres’ Class AAA team, has undergone a $40 million renovation and could seat 25,000 in 2005. Portland also has a stadium plan in place.

But because the Expos/Nationals are in the National League East and the 2005 schedule is set, playing in a stadium in the Eastern Time Zone seems a must.

One possibility is the minor-league stadium in the Hampton Roads area near Norfolk, Va.


• Kansas City traded catcher Benito Santiago to Pittsburgh for right-handed prospect Leo Nunez. The Royals also must pay about $1 million of Santiago’s $2.15 million salary.

• The Chicago White Sox and infielder Juan Uribe agreed to a three-year, $9.75 million contract.

• Cuban prospect Kendry Morales is officially a member of the Anaheim Angels after the U.S. Treasury Department approved his six-year contract.

• The Boston Red Sox lineup card from Game 4 of the 2004 World Series brought a site-record bid of $165,000 on MLB.com.