Tom Verducci's View

July 13, 2003

TRADE TALK

Having scored fewer runs than every other AL team but the Tigers
and the Indians at the time, the White Sox kicked off a buyer's
trade market on June 30 by getting two veteran switch-hitters:
second baseman Roberto Alomar from the Mets and outfielder Carl
Everett from the Rangers. Chicago gave up only minor leaguers,
none of whom are major league-ready, and assumed only a fraction
of the millions of dollars owed Alomar and Everett. With budgets
strained, noncontenders are likely to throw in cash to sweeten
deals before the July 31 trading deadline. Here's a look at some
of the top talent in an overall mediocre market:

STARTING PITCHERS The Giants, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Cardinals and
Braves are looking for help. The Orioles' Sidney Ponson is the
prize, with teammate Jason Johnson and the Marlins' Mark Redman
drawing interest. The Pirates' Kris Benson can also be had.

RELIEVERS The Yankees, Mariners, Blue Jays and Cardinals need to
bolster their bullpens. The Rangers' Ugueth Urbina and the Mets'
Armando Benitez are top-shelf. The Pirates' Mike Williams, the
Giants' Felix Rodriguez and the Dodgers' Paul Shuey and Guillermo
Mota are also drawing interest.

HITTERS Unless the Marlins change their minds and deal third
baseman Mike Lowell, the Cubs, Dodgers, Expos, Royals and A's
have little to choose from. The Mets' Jeromy Burnitz, the Devil
Rays' Ben Grieve and the Cardinals' J.D. Drew are the best of the
bunch.

JUAN GONE?

Though Juan (I Love Texas) Gonzalez used his no-trade clause to
kill a deal that would have sent him to Montreal last month, the
Rangers haven't abandoned their effort to trade the
free-agent-to-be. They have told Gonzalez, 33, they want to look
at youngsters Mark Teixeira, Kevin Mench and Ryan Ludwick in the
outfield, which could cost Gonzalez at bats. The A's,
Diamondbacks and Dodgers have interest in Gonzalez, especially
with Texas willing to pick up most of his contract. Meanwhile,
Rangers general manager John Hart is peddling Gonzalez, Urbina,
pitchers Ismael Valdes and John Thomson, and even first baseman
Rafael Palmeiro, who could wind up in Montreal.

PAID OFF

Got milk? Major league teams are eating money like cereal this
year. Kevin Young ($3.25 million) became the sixth player
released in 2003 with more than $3 million left on his contract
when the Pirates last week paid him what was left of a four-year,
$24 million deal. The others were Damian Easley (a record $14.3
million) by Detroit, Greg Vaughn ($9.25 million) by Tampa Bay,
Matt Williams ($6.6 million) by Arizona, Jeffrey Hammonds ($5
million) by Milwaukee and Todd Van Poppel ($4.75 million) by
Texas.

Clubs released 24 players through June, which was in line with
numbers from the same point last year (22) and in 2001 (24).
However, those teams ate $57 million worth of contracts, almost
double the amount last year ($30.3 million) and in 2001 ($30.2
million).

"These guys signed contracts in a different era," said one G.M.
"What's happening is, G.M.'s are going to their owners and
saying, 'I can't move him. The guy's an albatross.' It's no
different than businesses writing off losses in tough times,
saying, 'Let's take the loss and move on.'"

PURE ESSENTIALS

Three things Yankees righthander Mike Mussina takes with him on
the road:

1. A laptop
2. Vintage car magazines
3. An umbrella

Read Tom Verducci's Inside Baseball column every week at
si.com/baseball.

COLOR PHOTO: GAIL BURTON/AP (PONSON) Ponson COLOR PHOTO: RICH KANE/ICON SMI (GONZALEZ) Gonzalez COLOR PHOTO: SCOTT WACHTER/ICON SMI (HAMMONDS) Hammonds COLOR PHOTO: RUSTY KENNEDY/AP (MUSSINA)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)