Sunday, December 10, 2000

Reds may offer SS for P

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DALLAS — The Reds were believed to have made progress Saturday in talks with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Anaheim Angels for starting pitching.

        Resisting inquiries about right-hander Scott Williamson at the baseball winter meetings, the Reds instead have been trying to interest teams in their surplus of shortstops.

        Barry Larkin obviously isn't on the trading block, but backup Juan Castro is expendable. The Reds might also be willing to part with prospect Gookie Dawkins or one of two highly regarded minor leaguers, Wilmy Caceres or Ranier Olmedo, in the right deal.

        Reds general manager Jim Bowden wouldn't comment on details of any trade discussions, though Tampa Bay might be willing to deal Bryan Rekar, who finished 7-10 with a 4.41 ERA, or Ryan Rupe, whose 5-6 record and 6.92 ERA obscure his live arm.

        Seth Etherton, who was 5-1 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 starts, is thought to be among the Angels' available hurlers.

        The Reds sorely need starting pitching after having traded Ron Villone and Steve Parris this offseason.

        Spurred by stale rumors that Williamson might be available, several teams asked the Reds about him, including the Kansas City Royals. They have a player the Reds could use — outfielder Johnny Damon, who batted .327 last season and could fill the leadoff void nicely.

        Kansas City is eager to dump Damon, who's eligible for free agency after next season. But teams are scared by his 2001 salary, which could approach or exceed $7 million through arbitration, and his impending free-agent status.

        Payroll constraints already have complicated the Reds' efforts to add experienced pitching.

        Meanwhile, free-agent progress continued to inch forward. Boston appeared closer to sealing a seven- or eight-year deal with erstwhile Cleveland slugger Manny Ramirez. Speculation grew that Texas and Atlanta were the top contenders for Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez.


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