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It's not just money with Yankees

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So the Yankees' payroll is approaching $140 million. It's the system, it's their market, it's their right. And while others dawdled, they went out and cut a deal with the Blue Jays on Raul Mondesi -- a deal that costs them about what Darren Oliver cost the Red Sox. The deal also didn't cost them any of the players they needed to use get a pitcher, who turned out to be Jeff Weaver.

Jeff Weaver
Starting Pitcher
New York Yankees
17 6-8 121.2 112 75 3.18

Do they have huge advantages? Certainly. But, other than Sterling Hitchcock, where is there an Oliver/Jose Offerman/Tony Clark contract on the Yankees?

Sure, they spent a lot of money on Jason Giambi, but less per season than Toronto gave to Carlos (.243) Delgado.

Sure, they outbid everyone on a Dominican free agent playing in Japan named Alfonso Soriano. But wasn't he worth a lot more than what they paid, a lot more than some of the Travesty Lee/Matt White money? Of course.

When the Yankees made their first two draft picks last June, did they get two players (John-Ford Griffin, Jason Arnold) who were marketable within 13 months, or draft some tools high school kids from Saxapahaw who will be in the South Atlantic League in 2004?

They developed the core of the team -- Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte. When they didn't have what it took to get Bartolo Colon, they had what it took to get a No. 2-3 starter and 200-innings horse in Weaver in a three-way deal with Detroit and Oakland. Other than Oakland, which couldn't afford Weaver and thinks Ted Lilly is going to be a tremendous pitcher, no other American League contender had what it took to get Weaver, whose contract only gets to the $9.5 million level in 2005 when Roger Clemens, David Wells and Orlando Hernandez are long gone.

Sure, it works because the Yankees generate revenues far greater than any other team and because George Steinbrenner will spend virtually anything to win. But it also works because, on the field, Joe Torre, Derek Jeter and others make it work -- which is why Raul Mondesi may play better for the Yankees than he ever did in Los Angeles or Toronto.

And upstairs, Brian Cashman never stops working. Creative three-way deals like the Weaver-Carlos Pena-Lilly trade happen because of the band of young general managers who network from sunrise to sundown, a group that includes Cashman, Billy Beane, Steve Phillips, Dan O'Dowd, Mark Shapiro, Kevin Towers, Brian Sabean and J.P. Ricciardi. It's a group whose ideas never stop.

More on the deal
Comerica Park in Detroit isn't a hitters' park, but it's a good place for Pena to go relax and be himself. He had disappointed some in Oakland who thought he was more advanced than he showed to be, and reliever Franklyn German (who also went to Detroit in the deal) is another tools guy Beane always uses -- like Jesus Colome, Jose Ortiz and Mario Encarnacion -- in deals such as this.

It appears that Cleveland got considerably more for Colon than Detroit did for Weaver, but Colon is a legitimate No. 1 starter.

As for Oakland, Beane is a performance-based guy, although in this trade he is going on his scouting instincts that tell him Lilly can be more than a mid-rotation starter. With Barry Zito and Mark Mulder, Lilly gives the A's three lefties alongside Tim Hudson.

"The emergence of Scott Hatteberg at first base -- offensively and defensively -- allows us to do this," says Beane. "Hatteberg has been a huge factor for our club, on and off the field."

The A's didn't bring on money as players were exchanged, which allows Beane to jump on some of the many dump jobs that may unfold in the next three weeks. And in two drafts and a couple of trades, he has restocked the farm system. In Double-A, Oakland has four starting pitchers who were signed last June -- Rich Harden, Jason Arnold, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker. Shortstop Bobby Crosby, Oakland's first pick in 2001, is already playing at Double-A Midland with outfielder Griffin, who was the Yanks' No. 1 pick last year. Then add in seven of the first 39 picks this June -- all college players -- and the A's are restocking.

"In our situation, we have to find ways to find players in deals," says Beane. "Look, we gave up an asset in Pena, just as we gave up assets to get him last winter. We have to have prospects because we have to trade prospects, and we also always have to take risks. But look at Lilly, his performance and his salary ($237,150) and we think we've really helped ourselves and put ourselves in position to do some more things if and when the time is right."

Next on the block
Last week, ESPN was ridiculed for the Bartolo Colon-to-Montreal story, and this week the same thing happened with a report Wednesday on the Expos trying to get Cliff Floyd and Ryan Dempster.

But it's apparently done, pending Omar Minaya's ability to get MLB to add a little payroll. As we have noted, the Marlins are the team other clubs have been descending on, in pursuit of Dempster, Brad Penny and others -- especially a proven bat like Kevin Millar's.

A lot of the speculation about Al Leiter being traded started because he hasn't yet been signed to an extension by the Mets.

But here's something you might not have thought of, from a prominent agent: "There hasn't been one major potential free agent signed. Come on. I'm not big on conspiracy theories, but I'll guarantee that this has been thought out. The psychological impact of a thaw is strong enough, but if the owners flood the market, with as many teams selling rather than buying and the entire industry in a recession, this is going to cause another winter's market correction. What bothers me is that it does seem orchestrated."

In fact, the Orioles extended Jeff Conine. That's it.

"Why," says one team executive, "would we go sign someone before we know the system?"

One player rep's view: "We have to talk tough. Some players have publicly questioned a strike, so we have to show the owners that we are serious and unified, as the owners try to show us. There is a deal, and I think it can be done; either that, or we find a way to get around their implementation this winter. But I do know this: The major league players are absolutely for a radical change in the draft system. We don't think it's right that the industry pays out so much money to unproven players. You should have to perform to get paid."

There are several deals around the league that seem to have some legs, such as the Angels taking Tom Gordon and possibly Jeff Fassero, but for those who think the Mets are trading Armando Benitez and Al Leiter, think again. "Neither is going to be traded," says one Mets official. "We're going to re-sign Leiter. We can't let Al or Pedro Astacio go." Shawn Estes, Steve Trachsel and Jeff D'Amico, on the other hand ...

What to watch for
As the deadline approaches, even with the cloud of a possible strike, several teams have boards in GM offices with available pitching. Here's one team's board, in addition to the players from the Marlins and Mets:

  • Detroit: Brian Moehler, Jose Lima. Moehler was packaged with Bobby Higginson for Denny Neagle but Neagle vetoed the deal.

  • Cleveland: Chuck Finley, Paul Shuey. St. Louis was very impressed with Finley throwing 91-92 mph in Yankee Stadium this week and may make a move. Ellis Burks is available to a contender, but Boston said it had "no interest."

  • Chicago White Sox: Todd Ritchie. GMs say the Sox will go to August and decide if they're in or out, which could free some other pitchers.

  • Kansas City: Jeff Suppan and Paul Byrd.
  • Toronto: Chris Carpenter, Kelvim Escobar, Esteban Loaiza, Felix Heredia and Steve Parris, not to mention all the outfielders. There seems to be a lot of interest in Escobar.

  • Baltimore: Scott Erickson and Sidney Ponson, although other GMs feel Syd Thrift is a tough read.

  • Tampa Bay: Paul Wilson, Ryan Rupe, Doug Creek and Wilson Alvarez. When Alvarez didn't throw a pitch over 83 mph the other night against Texas, that depressed his value.

  • Anaheim: Scott Schoeneweis, because of the emergence of John Lackey. But only for top bullpen help.

  • Oakland: Cory Lidle.

  • Texas: Ismael Valdes, Kenny Rogers, Chan Ho Park and Dave Burba. Rogers has a no-trade and has indicated he doesn't want to leave the comfort of Arlington.

  • Philadelphia: Robert Person and Terry Adams, along with Mike Lieberthal, Scott Rolen, Doug Glanville and Travis Lee. Person to St. Louis?

  • Chicago Cubs: Gordon, Fassero and Jason Bere. Team president Andy MacPhail said this week that "we are not going to trade Jon Leiber. He's a big part of next season at a very reasonable cost."

  • Milwaukee: Jamey Wright.

  • Pittsburgh: They moved Mike Fetters to Arizona for the electric arm of Duaner Sanchez, but still have arms available like Brian Boehringer, and perhaps Jimmy Anderson in the right deal. General manager Dave Littlefield said on Wednesday, "At this point, it not only would be very hard to trade Brian Giles, I can't imagine a scenario in which we get offered enough to even think about it." But Jason Kendall in a deal to Colorado might make sense, and isn't out of the realm of possibility.

  • Colorado: Mike Hampton, Neagle and John Thomson. The latter would have to be a huge deal predicated on the theory that with Aaron Cook and Jason Young on the way, Thomson could bring something. Perhaps Neagle going to the bullpen, with Dennis Stark replacing him, will prompt him to reconsider waiving his no-trade.

  • San Francisco: Livan Hernandez. With Kurt Ainsworth and Jesse Foppert close, the Giants want to deal Hernandez for a bat. Floyd sounds great, so does Randy Winn. This is general manager Brian Sabean's team. Things will happen, because the Giants needs a boost.

  • San Diego: Kevin Jarvis, if healthy, and Bobby J. Jones.

    News and notes

  • Just when it seemed that the Diamondbacks would deal Erubiel Durazo for Weaver or some pitcher and let Mark Grace and Lyle Overbay play first base, this happened: As he watched the All-Star selection show, Gracie bolted across the clubhouse to congratulate Damian Miller and broke a toe when he rammed into a couch.

    Wake-up Call
    Red Sox manager Grady Little knows the importance of Tim Wakefield. Need three innings of relief? The seventh and eighth innings in front of Ugueth Urbina? A closer? A spot starter, like Tuesday, where -- in 100-plus degree heat -- Wakefield shut out Toronto, and after the game volunteered to relieve in the nightcap?

    "What's different about this situation is the way Grady handles it," says Wakefield. "There is no demotion here, no buying into a program. Last year when I was taken out of the rotation with one of the better earned run averages in the league, I was pretty upset. But Grady's made me feel as if I'm vital to our winning, and I'm happy to do it."

    "He is vital to our winning," says Little. "The guy's unbelievable. Those innings he chews up are very important, and he's been really good."

    With the trade for Alan Embree, who has been virtually unhittable since coming to Boston from San Diego, and the impending return of Dustin Hermanson, Boston's bullpen is starting to take form as the best it's been all season. And Wayne Gomes may stick with the club -- he's in great shape and is throwing very well. For Gomes, it's a dream come true, as he's originally from Wareham -- the gateway to Cape Cod -- and his father took him to Fenway as a kid.

  • There are many people in the Minneapolis area who insist that Carl Pohlad still wants the Twins to be contracted.

  • Red Sox manager Little: "Who'd have thought that a team would miss its ninth hitter (Ray Sanchez) as much, if not more, than its cleanup hitter (Manny Ramirez). I had no idea how good Sanchez was until I watched him every day. He does a lot of things that make his team better."

  • The Rangers were the one team other than Montreal that had a legitimate shot at Colon, but wouldn't part with Hank Blalock, Colby Lewis and a third player.

  • Now Texas manager Jerry Narron has to deal with the Carl Everett dilemma, which means benching Ryan Ludwick. Everett refused a minor-league rehab assignment -- no, he has not even taken early BP -- and general manager John Hart is insisting that he play, which makes some wonder if Narron is being set up to be fired.

    If Narron goes, the Jim Fregosi rumors continue to swirl, as Terry Francona doesn't seem to be a replacement candidate; Francona certainly will manage again, but fellow Rangers coach Jamie Quirk has long seemed like a natural major league manager. Francona moved to Texas with Hart, but his association in Cleveland was with Mark Shapiro, who -- if and when Charlie Manuel steps down -- seems inclined to hire Eddie Murray as manager.

  • There were indications this week that the Cubs may reconsider a deal for Scott Rolen, if his price is less than the seven years and $90 million offered by the Phillies, and if he is willing to accept some creative financing.

  • The night Mondesi was traded to the Yankees, he sat in the Boston clubhouse with Carlos Baerga. "You have no idea how good you can be," Baerga told him. "You can change the way everyone thinks about you with the Yankees. This is your chance. With your talent, you should be the toast of the town."

  • Blue Jays GM Ricciardi has taken heat in Toronto for trying to rebuild that team that has averaged 77 wins a year for seven years, but one of his fellow GMs says: "Why hold together a losing team that was sadly overpaid?" Ricciardi is starting to see the everyday lineup, especially with Kevin Cash on his way to catch and Josh Phelps impressing as a DH-1B-C. But as he tries to move Escobar, Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz Jr. and veteran pitchers, he needs pitching in return.

    The coaching staff not only believes that Chris Woodward is an everyday big-league shortstop, but coach Brian Butterfield raves about the future of Felipe Lopez. "He's learning in the majors," says Butterfield, "but his talent is scary. I know some people believe his upside is greater than that of Miguel Tejada, and he's a great player."

  • There are hundreds of thousands who claim to have been at Fenway on Sept. 28, 1960, when Ted Williams bid adieu by homering in his final at-bat, but I know two who really were: John Updike and Yale's esteemed hockey coach, Tim Taylor. Of course, Taylor's family built Fenway Park, so there was reason to sneak away from Harvard for the afternoon.

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