Most interesting moves on draft day might come after the draft
Nov. 14, 1997
Five years ago, when baseball held its last expansion draft, the real fun began right after the Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins finished picking their players.
That's when teams literally started lining up in a New York City hotel ballroom, where the draft took place, to announce trades.
In one frenetic hour following the draft, seven deals came down.
Some were unusual _ the Marlins, having taken catcher Eric Helfand from Oakland, sent him back to the A's for Walt Weiss.
Some turned out be significant _ the Rockies turned around and traded Kevin Reimer to Milwaukee for Dante Bichette.
And one didn't even involve an expansion team _ Seattle sent Kevin Mitchell to Cincinnati for Norm Charlton.
So, with teams barred from making trades until the end of Tuesday's draft, will the same thing happen after the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are done picking?
It's no secret that the Montreal Expos may deal Cy Young winner Pedro Martinez.
The Toronto Blue Jays, considered the early favorites to get Martinez, backed off when Montreal asked for young talents Jose Cruz Jr. and Kelvim Escobar. That may put the Cleveland Indians, clearly in search of a No. 1 starter, in position to land him.
The Florida Marlins, having made most of their roster available, might follow up the trade of Moises Alou by dealing the likes of Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown or Bobby Bonilla.
Chuck Knoblauch, hoping to play for a contender, could get sprung by the Minnesota Twins. And several players who get taken in the draft could wind up back with their original teams, the result of preset deals, much like the one involving Helfand and the Athletics in the last expansion draft.
``Those deals are not that easy to make,'' Angels general manager Bill Bavasi said. ``I don't know if there will be a lot of prearranged selections for trading purposes, but I think people will try.''
Either way, don't be too quick to turn away from the TV set when the 70th and final player is drafted Tuesday night.
THE CENTER OF ATTENTION: The pursuit of free agent Brady Anderson is picking up at a rapid pace, perhaps helped by the stalemate between Bernie Williams and the New York Yankees.
The Yankees, Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays appear to be the leading contenders for Anderson, who was not happy with the way Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos' tactics prompted manager Davey Johnson to resign.
Anderson's home run total dipped from 50 to a more reasonable 18 last season, and he would make a nice fit for a lot of teams looking for a center fielder to bat leadoff.
The Braves figure to lose free agent Kenny Lofton, the Blue Jays are trying to boost their offense and the Yankees seem unwilling to meet Williams' asking price. But Atlanta, Toronto and New York all may be ready to pay $7 million a season for Anderson, about $1 million more than the Orioles might want to spend.
FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS: Before they traded Moises Alou and his $5 million salary to Houston, the Florida Marlins had committed $47,075,000 to 12 players on their 40-man roster for next season.
And the Marlins weren't No. 1 on the list of 1998 payrolls, trailing the Baltimore Orioles, who had guaranteed $49,369,801 to 14 players.
Others with big 1998 commitments are the Atlanta Braves ($40,725,000 to seven players), the Cleveland Indians ($42,823,222 to 13 players), the Seattle Mariners ($38,180,791 to 10 players), the St. Louis Cardinals ($36.5 million to eight players), the New York Yankees ($35,624,333 to 10 players before the Kenny Rogers trade) and the Texas Rangers ($35,062,595 to nine players).
Four teams have more than $100 million in future commitments: Atlanta ($153.5 million), Florida ($147.5 million before the Alou trade), Cleveland ($140.2 million) and the Chicago White Sox ($104 million).
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Former Expos star Larry Walker on Montreal repeatedly trading its best players to avoid paying large salaries: ``It's almost like following college kids _ four years and they're gone.''
WORLD VIEW: Rupert Metcalf of The (London) Independent on the state of baseball:
``Sport can be strange and unpredictable. It can be eccentric and bizarre. Rarely though does it descend to the levels of certifiable insanity currently being plumbed by major league baseball in the US. ...
``Last week Davey Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles was named the American League manager of the year, after a 98-64 regular season in which the Orioles led their division throughout. Within three hours Johnson had been sacked, the third manager to suffer that fate at the hands of Os owner Peter Angelos in just four years. ..
``The 1997 world champions, the Florida Marlins, are behaving equally weirdly. They've put the whole team up for sale. This time the reason is salary costs, even though Marlins' owner Wayne Huizenga, of Blockbuster Video fame, is one of the richest men in America.
``Ken Griffey Jr., the Seattle Mariners outfielder generally reckoned the best allround player in the game, was unanimously voted Most Valuable Player ... which means the Mariners will probably get rid of him.''
End Adv Weekend Editions Nov. 15-16