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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.

Mondesi: Expensive mediocrity
Raul Mondesi has long been one of baseball's most overrated players, and the six-year, $60 million contract the Dodgers gave him January 1998 was one of the worst signings of recent years.

He's never driven in 100 runs in a season and his career-high of 33 HRs (in 1999) is pedestrian by today's standards, especially those for a $10-million-a-year player. He's had an on-base percentage higher than .350 just once in his career.

This year, despite 15 HRs, he ranks just 57th in the AL in OPS (on-base + slugging). In fact, check his numbers vs. the totals for Yankee right fielders this year:

Mondesi
.224 AVG, .301 OBP, .435 SLG
Yankees' RFs
.276 AVG, .341 OBP, .423 SLG

Mondesi isn't really any better than the John Vander Wal/Shane Spencer combo, although the trade allows those two to play left field in place of Rondell White (.706 OPS).

J.P. Ricciardi found a taker for Mondesi ... the only team that can afford to take on such an expensive mediocrity.
-- David Schoenfield

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.

Shane Spencer and John Vander Wal have not hit as well as expected while playing in right, and Rondell White has not done as well as anticipated in left.

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.

Mon, July 1
It's obvious what the Yankees get out of this trade. What's less visible to the untrained eye is what the Blue Jays get out of it.

But it's simple, actually. For the Blue Jays, this was a deal motivated by one thing:

Money, money, money, money.

Even though they have to pay $6 million of Raul Mondesi's $13 million salary in 2003, the Blue Jays' bottom line is this: The $12.5 million they don't have to pay him. More ...

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 1 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.

Who is Scott Wiggins?
He's a 26-year old minor league vet. He started this year in Double-A after five seasons of Single-A ball.

He worked as a starter in the low minors, but is being used as an effective anti-lefty reliever this year, holding lefties to a .143 mark so far. He should get a shot in a similar role for the Blue Jays sometime soon, but this was a clear salary dump trade.

Wiggins is not a premier prospect, though that doesn't mean he can't help. He was a seventh-round pick from Northern Kentucky University in 1997.
-- John Sickels

''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.




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AUDIO/VIDEO
 Bronx bomber
Raul Mondesi calls New York "the place to play."
Listen

 Outfield help
Yankees manager Joe Torre believes Raul Mondesi has plenty left in the tank.
Listen

 The right fit
Yankees GM Brian Cashman is excited about the possibilities Raul Mondesi will bring to right field.
Listen

 Right Stuff?
The Baseball Tonight crew analyzes the Yankees' addition of Raul Mondesi.
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