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  Fri, July 30, 2004


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Lowdown on trades
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

The trade deadline is 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

Yet, for Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Randy Johnson, it might as well be today.

Johnson is scheduled to start tonight against the Colorado Rockies in Denver, a day before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Do the New York Yankees want him for 11 or 12 starts over the final two months?

Johnson says he wants to be a Yankee, but Arizona scouts who have looked at the New York farm system are not impressed. The Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers hope he will drop his no-trade clause.

Is it bad for baseball if Johnson, with $16 million US owed on his 2005 deal, moves to the Yankees? Glad you asked. We asked Blue Jays centre fielder Vernon Wells the other day.

"I have no problem with what the New York Yankees do," Wells said. "You can not fault an owner, whether it is George Steinbrenner, or anyone else, for wanting to do everything possible for his team to win.

"He is not breaking any rules."

Johnson's 10 wins accounted for 31% of the Diamondbacks' first 32 wins. Steve Carlton won 27 games for the 1972 Philadelphia, who won 59 games. Carlton was responsible for 45.7% of the Phillies' wins that year.

WHO'S TALKING

The Boston Red Sox have looked at Arizona outfielder Danny Bautista, since Trot Nixon is hurting. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants are also interested in Bautista.

Plan B for the Red Sox is San Diego's Jay Payton. Boston might even move Derek Lowe to the Padres. The Expos also like Payton.

The Minnesota Twins appear locked in on Pittsburgh Pirates' Kris Benson but refuse to part with outfield prospect Jason Kubel. The Twins would have interest in Paul Wilson or Cory Lidle once the Reds decide the season is over.

The Angels also want to add Benson.

The Chicago Cubs want Montreal shortstop Orlando Cabrera and the Expos have asked for pitcher Angel Guzman and outfielder Felix Pie.

Both San Diego and the Dodgers are interested in Arizona outfielder Steve Finley, who has a no-trade clause. Arizona sought packages that included Akinori Otsuka or Scott Linebrinks.

The Dodgers have a better option than Findley -- outfielder Carlos Beltran, who the Houston Astros recently acquired to prevent their slide in the NL Central. It didn't work.

The always-quiet Atlanta Braves -- remember they were dead and buried in April? -- may take a run at Colorado outfielder Larry Walker, of Maple Ridge, B.C. He has nearly $18 million remaining on his contract.

Despite their payroll worries, Marlins scouts have also been watching Walker.

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean was in Cleveland Tuesday watching Detroit Tigers' Ugueth Urbina throw a 1-2-3 inning against the Indians.

FINALLY

There could be a lot of moves, but the 2004 season has not separated the contenders from the also-rans. San Diego general manager Kevin Towers says teams are reluctant to move players because they aren't out of it -- 17 teams are within 5 1/2 games of the wild-card race going into last night's games.

"Almost everybody feels they have a shot at the wild card," he said. "Last year at this time the Marlins called about Rondell White. I was thinking, 'Do they really think they're in this?' They ended up winning the World Series."

And your Jays? When you're going good, why make changes?