|Monday, July 1
Updated: July 2, 6:44 PM ET
First-place Yanks fill outfield hole with Mondesi
ESPN.com news services
BOSTON -- The New York Yankees acquired outfielder Raul Mondesi from the Toronto Blue Jays for a minor league pitcher Monday night, hoping the slumping slugger can give them production in a position that's been lagging this season.
For Mondesi, the Yankees gave up 26-year-old reliever Scott Wiggins, a seventh-round draft pick in 1997.
The AL East-leading Yankees, already topping the majors in homers, runs scored and payroll, have failed to find a replacement for retired right fielder Paul O'Neill.
''Our outfield has been depleted and when Joe (manager Torre) needs something, I'm going to do everything I can to get it for him,'' Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. ''And the way our fans are supporting us day after day, I've got to step forward for them, too.''
On Sunday, the Yankees placed six players on the All-Star team. The only position where they didn't have an All-Star was the outfield.
The 31-year-old Mondesi has hit at least 24 home runs in seven straight years. He has 15 homers and 45 RBI this season, but is batting only .224.
Mondesi is a strong defensive player, known for an exceptional arm. Last week, he criticized new Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca after being benched.
The Yankees were off Monday and the deal was made before the Blue Jays played at Boston.
Mondesi was expected to join the Yankees before they played at home Tuesday night against Cleveland. The Blue Jays begin a three-game series Friday at Yankee Stadium.
Mondesi did not comment as he left Fenway Park after Boston beat Toronto 4-0.
''I think he's got a stronger cast around him. It'll probably take some pressure off him,'' Tosca said.
Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado agreed.
''When you go to a good team you perform better,'' he said. ''He's going to a club where he doesn't have to carry them. He just has to help out.''
There had been talk for a while the Yankees were shopping for a star outfielder. Mondesi had been mentioned as a possible candidate, along with Florida's Cliff Floyd and Colorado's Larry Walker. Toronto's Shannon Stewart and Jose Cruz Jr. also had been suggested.
''He gives us a presence in right field that we presently do not have,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
The Yankees have reached the World Series in five of the last six years, helped by midseason acquisitions of stars such as David Justice, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Sterling Hitchcock and Denny Neagle.
The Yankees began the season with a $126 million payroll, the highest in the majors, and this latest deal is sure to renew cries across baseball that their spending is out of control.
''The transaction is fair to everybody. We acted in good faith and solved some of the needs for everybody,'' Yankees president Randy Levine said.
Mondesi is making $11 million this year. The Yankees will pay roughly $5.5-6 million of that -- the prorated salary for the remainder of the season -- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark learned.
He is due $13 million next season -- the Yankees will pay $7 million and the Blue Jays will be responsible for $6 million.
The Yankees lead Boston by 1½ games in the AL East.
''They do it every year and they're going to do it every year,'' longtime Boston season ticketholder Bill Klienfeld said at Fenway Park. ''That's why they're the Yankees and we're the Red Sox. You get used to it.''
Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said the Yankees were the only team to call about Mondesi. He also said no other Toronto players were discussed.
''They called us Saturday to see if we were willing to move him. The ball was in their court, having to pick up the salary,'' Ricciardi said. ''We're obviously rebuilding Toronto and this helps us keep going in the right direction. It gives us an opportunity to save a lot of money.''
Stark was told from a baseball official that this was almost entirely a money move made by Jays president Paul Godfrey and Yanks president Randy Levine. It benefits the Jays, who free up more than $12 million to address other issues.
Mondesi began his major league career in 1993 with Los Angeles. He is a lifetime .278 hitter with 229 home runs, 714 RBI and 201 stolen bases.
''I have always been impressed in his ability,'' Torre said. ''Nobody went from first to third on him, and as big as he is, he ran hard. In spite of hitting .220, he has 14 or 15 home runs. Hopefully, the move to New York will give him a little spark.''
Mondesi was in the original starting lineup Monday night, batting third against Boston. Ricciardi said he told Mondesi about the trade 15-20 minutes before the 7:05 start.
''I think he was totally floored, but I think he was excited,'' Ricciardi said. ''He's expressed an interest through his agent to be traded.''
An All-Star in 1995, Mondesi has never played in a winning postseason game. He made the NL playoffs in 1995 and 1996 with the Dodgers, and his team got swept each time.
Mondesi is one of only eight players with multiple 30-30 seasons. He hit 30 homers and stole 30 bases in 1997 and 1999.
''He played in L.A. as a young player and he played pretty well,'' Torre said. ''He was traded for Shawn Green, a pretty good player. We feel he'll be able to handle the distractions of New York.''
The left-handed Wiggins was 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 24 appearances for Double-A Norwich.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.