You can forget those rumblings that Steve Finley is about to get traded to the Marlins or Phillies.
According to several baseball people who were in touch with the Diamondbacks on Tuesday, Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr. informed both clubs that Finley had decided he would not waive his no-trade clause to go to a team on the East Coast.
That news wasn't greeted particularly warmly by the Marlins or Phillies, obviously. But it wasn't the Diamondbacks' favorite development of the week, either.
Arizona had been hoping to trade Finley out of the division and then re-sign him this winter. Now, he figures to not only wind up in San Diego, Los Angeles or San Francisco for the rest of this year -- but he's also a fair bet to get an extension.
There have been reports in the last few days that both the Marlins and Phillies were closing in on trades for Finley. And it appeared by late Monday that Florida and Arizona had nearly agreed on a package that would have sent highly regarded Marlins first-base prospect Jason Stokes, plus a top pitching prospect, to Arizona for Finley.
The Phillies, meanwhile, had talked about various two-for-one deals that almost certainly would have included center fielder Marlon Byrd, plus another prospect, for Finley.
However, when it became apparent to Finley this week that he had three options in the NL West -- two of them near his home north of San Diego -- he informed the Diamondbacks that, for family reasons, he would waive his no-trade clause only if he were traded to a team in California.
The Giants -- who nearly signed Finley as a free agent before the 2003 season -- have been pursuing Finley for weeks. But if Finley had a choice of clubs, he would no doubt prefer a team in Southern California, because it's closer to home.
The Dodgers would be his second choice. And there have been indications that Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta might have the best fit for the Diamondbacks. DePodesta hasn't ruled out trading any of his top prospects, with the possible exception of Edwin Jackson. And the clubs have talked about a three-for-one deal that was believed to center around first baseman James Loney. One source said he believed the clubs even had agreed on two of the three players.
Arizona has tried to drive the toughest bargain with the Padres, because the Diamondbacks knew a deal -- and probable extension -- would eliminate any chance they had of re-signing Finley. But San Diego stepped up its efforts to deal for him in the last few days, working on potential three- and four-team trades that could meet Arizona's luxury-item asking price.
Finley has asked Arizona to work out some kind of deal by Thursday, to give him time to consider his options. The Diamondbacks were already doing their best to accommodate him on that front. Now, they have no choice but to also hand him the steering wheel and virtually allow him to choose where he wants to go.
More Trade Rumblings
With Finley suddenly no longer on the menu, both Florida and Philadelphia lurched into Plan B mode Tuesday.
The Phillies, according to various sources, talked to Houston about Carlos Beltran and spoke with the Yankees about Kenny Lofton. But Houston still hasn't made a decision on whether to put Beltran back on the market. And the Yankees are believed to be talking to several teams about Lofton, to see if they can deal him for a prospect to include in the Randy Johnson deal.
Florida's backup plan appears to include Arizona's Danny Bautista and Colorado's Larry Walker. But Walker's contract makes him a tougher fit for the Marlins. So Bautista is a more likely option, particularly because he's a former Marlin.
But there were rumblings the Red Sox also are interested in Bautista, in case Trot Nixon is done for the year or can only DH when healthy.
As for the other trading chip in Arizona, that Big Unit guy, every indication is still that the only place Johnson wants to go is to the Yankees. So it's hard not to wonder whether some of the Diamondbacks' we-don't-like-the-Yankees-prospects talk might be subtly designed to try to convince Johnson to consider other options.
Arizona clearly likes the Angels' talent pool better than the Yankees'. And it appears the Diamondbacks have at least whetted the appetite of Angels owner Arte Moreno to make one more blockbuster move for Johnson.
The problem, says one baseball man familiar with this situation, is that Johnson apparently still doesn't view Anaheim as being more than a team with a "theoretical" chance to win. And the Unit is on record as saying that's the type of club he doesn't want to go to.
"The Angels don't have a clear shot to the playoffs," the source said. "The Yankees do. Say Randy goes to Anaheim and goes 8-2? What are the odds, even if he does that, that they make the playoffs? Are they 50-50? Well, that's not a bet Randy is willing to make."
There are indications that the Yankees are willing to trade up to four players for Johnson, and that they would also be willing to take back players Arizona would love to shed -- such as injured closer Matt Mantei and unhappy backup Roberto Alomar.
Another indication that the Yankees are more confident of landing the Unit than they're letting on is that they haven't pursued any other pitcher on the market.
The reason for that, said one source that has been in contact with them, is that the Yankees have come to the conclusion that "Randy is a difference-maker. No one else out there is."
Two sources who have been talking with the Pirates say that, despite indications that the serious bidding on Kris Benson was down to only Minnesota and Anaheim, there's a third team now in the hunt.
That would be the Braves, who had top scouts Jim Fregosi and Chuck McMichael at each of Benson's last two starts.
"If you're speculating the Braves are the big under-the-radar team in this thing," said an official of one club, "it's safe to say they are."
With Finley's availability pulled out from under them and Benson heading elsewhere, the Phillies were one of several teams shopping hard for an impact player and finding nothing much left on the shelves.
The starting-pitching market, beyond Johnson and Benson, is a wasteland. And when Billy Wagner had to shut it down with shoulder trouble and Ryan Madson went on the disabled list with a hand injury Monday, the Phillies had to change course and try to address the area that actually had been their greatest strength -- the bullpen.
According to clubs that have spoken with the Phillies, they scouted Seattle's Ron Villone over the weekend but were told he's no longer available. They've talked to Detroit about Ugueth Urbina and to Seattle about Eddie Guardado. They were outbid by the Red Sox for Terry Adams. And they've been-there, done-that with Jose Mesa.
But there are signs Oakland has interest in second baseman Placido Polanco, whom the Phillies are shopping to open a spot for the dazzling Chase Utley. One possibility is left-handed specialist Ricardo Rincon, who once pitched for Phillies special assistant Charlie Manuel in Cleveland.
The Expos are believed to have asked the Cubs for one of their top two prospects, pitcher Angel Guzman or outfielder Felix Pie, for Orlando Cabrera. And, not surprisingly, the Cubs are balking at giving up either for a guy hitting .238, with four homers and an on-base percentage under .300. So the Giants are now a dark horse to get Cabrera.
There isn't a big-name reliever the Giants haven't looked into -- from Mesa to Urbina, to Baltimore's Jorge Julio. The Giants appear to have enough interest in hard-throwing David Aardsma to make at least one big deal.
A bunch of teams report that White Sox GM Kenny Williams has inquired about nearly every right-handed-hitting outfielder who might be available. But an official of one team Williams contacted says that, after trading five prospects for Freddy Garcia and Carl Everett, the Sox don't have much left.
"Their system has slipped," the official said. "They've traded away a lot of players. They've got some speed-gun arms at the lower levels. But there's no impact-type pitching down there. They have some outfielders (Joe Borchard, Ryan Sweeney). But they'd have a hard time finding enough to make a major deal, in our view."
There was a lot of buzzing over the weekend about a potential deal that would have sent Mike Sweeney to Seattle. But the Royals are believed to have told Sweeney they would trade him only if they could get him into a pennant race. So that Seattle deal? Not happening.