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Archive for Thursday, July 12, 2001

Trade up to McGriff

Veteran could reject move from Tampa Bay to Cubs

July 12, 2001

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— The deal is in Fred McGriff's hands.

The Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have reached agreement on a trade that would send McGriff to Chicago, a Cubs source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Wednesday. McGriff must now decide whether to waive his no-trade clause and accept the deal.

No decision is expected before today, the source said. If McGriff agrees to the trade, the Devil Rays would get prospects in return.

"We'll have to see how it plays out. When it will be resolved, I don't know," Devil Rays manager Hal McRae said. "He's our best player as of today, and it would devastate the ballclub, but we have a direction. It is to go young and give the young players an opportunity to play."

While McGriff's choice might seem simple he would go from baseball's worst team to the NL Central leaders he's a Tampa, Fla., native and likes playing at home. He's also having one of his most productive seasons, hitting a team-high .330 with 53 RBIs and 15 home runs.

McGriff didn't attend the optional workout the Devil Rays had Wednesday before they left for Montreal, but he often goes straight from his house to the airport when the team leaves on an off day. His equipment bag was on the team bus.

McGriff does not have to be in Montreal until this afternoon, when the Devil Rays have a mandatory workout.

"Freddie's a huge part of this team," said Steve Cox, who would take McGriff's place at first base if the trade goes through. "He's doing the best on the team right now. He's the kind of guy you don't want to see his bat out of the lineup."

McGriff's agent could not be reached for comment. Neither could Andy MacPhail, the Cubs president and general manager, nor Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMar.

The Cubs, in first place after the All-Star break for only the third time since World War II, are looking to bolster their offense for the stretch run. McGriff fits the bill. He's one of only two players to hit 200 home runs in both the AL and NL. He has 432 career homers.

He's hitting .347 against right-handers this season, and would give Sammy Sosa some much-needed protection in the lineup. Sosa has already drawn a career-high 21 intentional walks.

What's in the deal for the Devil Rays? At 27-61, they have the worst record in baseball and are looking to shed their high-priced veterans in exchange for prospects. Already this season the Devil Rays have released Vinny Castilla ($7 million) and Gerald Williams ($3 million).

Among active Tampa Bay players, McGriff has the second-highest salary, earning $6.5 million this year. Greg Vaughn makes $8.25 million.

Wilson Alvarez is the highest-paid Devil Ray with a contract that pays him $9 million this year, but he's been on the disabled list since the start of the 2000 season.

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