Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Yankees pick up Mondesi from Toronto

The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News

        NEW YORK — Enrique Wilson might have done more than any player to fill the New York Yankees' right-field hole created by the retirement of Paul O'Neill.

        Watching the utility infielder struggle in right field in Saturday's loss to the New York Mets prompted owner George Steinbrenner to push his front office to deal.

        “The parameters came together in the last 48 hours,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of the acquisition Monday night of outfielder Raul Mondesi from the Toronto Blue Jays for Class AA pitcher Scott Wiggins.

        With Shane Spencer's inability to capitalize on the opportunity — he is hitting .247 with five homers and 24 RBI — as well as John Vander Wal, by design a role player, the Yankees saw right field as their most glaring need.

        “Our outfield has been depleted and when Joe (manager Torre) needs something, I'm going to do everything I can to get it for him,” Steinbrenner said. “And the way our fans are supporting us day after day, I've got to step forward for them, too.”

        Stepping forward includes pushing the Yankees' payroll over $130 million.

        Cashman has monitored outfielders since the season began, with the focus on Florida's Cliff Floyd and the Toronto trio of Mondesi, Jose Cruz and Shannon Stewart, and most recently, Tampa Bay's Randy Winn.

        Florida's asking price was high, as was that of Pittsburgh, which wanted Nick Johnson for Brian Giles.

        On Saturday, Cashman put in another call to Blue Jays counterpart J.P. Ricciardi.

        Toronto, eager to deal from an economic aspect, was actively shopping Mondesi after he clashed with new manager Carlos Tosca for arriving late for a team meeting.

        Yankees president Randy Levine said a deciding factor was Toronto's willingness to assume part of Mondesi's contract. The Yankees will pick up the balance of $5.5 million on his $11 million contract this year, and $7 million of $13 million next season.

        Toronto will assume $6 million of the 2003 contract, saving the Blue Jays $12.5 million, which Levine called Toronto's side of a “win-win trade” for both teams.

        “We need to get to the point where we are not strapped financially by having certain guys here that probably won't be here when we're hopefully turning the corner,” Ricciardi said.

        In Mondesi, 31, the Yankees get a player who has hit at least 24 home runs in seven straight years, and with 15 homers and 45 RBI this season — despite a .224 average — is on pace for roughly 30 homers and driving in 90 runs.

        “He gives us a presence in right field we presently do not have,” Cashman said of the 1995 All-Star for Los Angeles and lifetime .277 hitter with 229 homers, 714 RBI and 201 stolen bases.

        Torre said Mondesi has a dual presence.

        “I have always been impressed in his ability,” Torre said. “Nobody went from first to third on him, and as big as he is, he ran hard.

        “Hopefully, the move to New York will give him a little spark. He can do a lot of big things, power-wise.”

        The Yankees have reached the World Series in five of the last six years — winning four times — by making the right move at the right time. In this case, they did so long before the July 31 trade deadline, when the price usually spikes.

        During this run, the Yankees patched in-season with Darryl Strawberry, Cecil Fielder, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Sterling Hitchcock and Denny Neagle.

        Mondesi, pulled from Toronto's lineup Monday night in Boston, refused to comment.

        In Wiggins, the Yankees lose a pitcher who didn't figure in their immediate plans, because at age 26, he should be past the Class AA level.


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- Yankees pick up Mondesi from Toronto
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Rangers sign Holik
Coming up this week

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