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Pirates Pirates working deal for Mondesi

Minor-league players part of discussion with Yankees

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Still seeking to upgrade offensive production in the outfield, the Pirates are talking to the Yankees about a deal that could bring them Raul Mondesi. The Pirates would be responsible for just $1 million of Mondesi's hefty salary and would not have to give up anyone from their major-league roster.

General Manager Dave Littlefield, who will be in Florida today for the start of voluntary minicamp for pitchers, refused to comment on any specific names or teams that he is in contact with and said no deal has been consummated. But Littlefield did say he is engaged in talks with six teams and several representatives of free agents in his quest to add an outfielder and a starting pitcher.

It is no secret that the Yankees are trying to peddle Mondesi, a 10-year veteran who stands to make $13 million this season in the last year of a contract he originally signed with the Dodgers. Three teams could end up paying this year's salary. Toronto was so eager to trade him to the Yankees last season that the Blue Jays are paying $6 million of the contract, and the Yankees are said to be willing to assume another $6 million.

That would put the Pirates' share at about $1 million for a player who hit .232 but had 26 home runs and 88 RBIs. The free-swinging Mondesi, a two-time Gold Glove winner, struck out 103 times last year and his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs was .203. If a deal is made, the Yankees would receive minor-league players in return.

While the offensively challenged Pirates have taken steps to upgrade their lineup with the addition of Randall Simon and Matt Stairs, Mondesi is far from the ideal solution. But he could be considered a one-year stopgap at an affordable price to give center field prospect Tony Alvarez another season in Class AAA.

Mondesi, 31, is a right fielder. If the Pirates obtain him, he likely would be used in left field, which would necessitate the shift of Brian Giles to center. Giles appeared in 241 games in center with Pirates in 2000 and 2001, and there have been internal discussions about the possibility of a position switch given that center fielders are more difficult to come by than right- or left-fielders.

Minicamp, which runs through Saturday, allows the Pirates to monitor the condition of their pitchers. It also will be the first time No. 1 draft pick Bryan Bullington throws off the mound in a Pirates uniform and the first time the four new coaches work together with Manager Lloyd McClendon.

Robert Dvorchak can be reached at bdvorchak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1959.

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