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Dodgers Put Sheffield on the Table in Trade Talks

Baseball: Potential Padre deal includes Vaughn, Myers, Gomez.

November 10, 1998|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NAPLES, Fla. — In his boldest move yet to rebuild the Dodgers, General Manager Kevin Malone on Monday attempted to complete a blockbuster trade with the San Diego Padres involving all-star outfielder Gary Sheffield and infielder Mark Grudzielanek, baseball sources said.

On the first day of the annual general managers' meetings here, Malone and Padre General Manager Kevin Towers discussed sending Sheffield, a former Padre, and Grudzielanek to San Diego for all-star outfielder Greg Vaughn, longtime reliever Randy Myers and infielder Chris Gomez. The move would give the Dodgers immediate and long-term payroll flexibility, fill a hole in the bullpen and provide options in the infield.

Malone and Towers plan to continue discussing a deal with Sheffield and Vaughn as the principals today. Malone spoke cautiously when asked about his talks with the Padres.

"I've heard something about that," Malone said, smiling wryly. "But I hear about a lot of things."

Malone declined to confirm the proposal, but sources said the Dodgers are eager to trade Sheffield because of his contract situation.

Sheffield, the principal player acquired from the Florida Marlins in the seven-player Mike Piazza trade May 15, is owed about $50 million under his contract that doesn't expire until after the 2003 season. Sheffield made about $17 million during the just-completed season, including payments he received from the Dodgers and Marlins to waive a no-trade clause that could have killed the Piazza deal, and is scheduled to earn $9.5 million in 1999.

Comparatively, Vaughn, coming off a 50 home run season, has only one year remaining on his three-year, $15-million deal. Vaughn is owed $5.75 million in 1999, and $850,000 of that is deferred.

The Dodgers hope to acquire either Kevin Brown or Randy Johnson, the top starting pitchers in this free-agent class. Moving Sheffield's salary would enable the Dodgers to increase the multiyear contracts they might offer to Brown or Johnson.

"We have options right now because we've done some things to address areas we had to address," said Malone, referring to retaining closer Jeff Shaw and signing free-agent outfielder Devon White to play center field.

"I'm open to doing anything I can to improve the Dodgers and make us a championship club again, but I haven't made any decisions on what we're going to do next. There are plans in place, and I'm willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk with me, but that doesn't mean anything is going to happen soon about some of these things [trade proposals] or down the road."

Sheffield has expressed concern about the Dodgers' plan to move him from right field to left next season.

Although Malone said Sheffield recently told new Manager Davey Johnson he is no longer reluctant to change positions, Dodger players are taking a wait-and-see approach. Left field is Vaughn's best position.

Sheffield played for the Padres in 1992 and part of '93. He had one of the best seasons of his 10-year career in '92, leading the National League with a .330 batting average and hitting 33 homers with 100 runs batted in.

Towers was unavailable for comment Monday, but the Padre player-personnel chief has openly tried to trade Myers, 36, whom the NL champions acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in August to bolster their playoff roster. The Padres are presumably willing to trade Vaughn because they believe his value is at its highest.

Myers, who has a high salary, was ineffective down the stretch. The left-hander has two years and about $12 million remaining on his contract.

Myers, who saved 28 games while closing for the Blue Jays, struggled in a setup role for Padre closer Trevor Hoffman, going 1-3 with a 6.28 earned-run average in 21 games. But Myers saved 45 games with a 1.51 ERA for the Baltimore Orioles in 1997 while they were managed by Johnson, who also managed Myers with the New York Mets from 1985-89.

Johnson is a fan of Myers, whose fastball was clocked in the mid-80s during the postseason, and the Dodgers need help in the bullpen because free-agent pitchers Scott Radinsky and Mark Guthrie are not expected to return. The Dodgers, undeterred by Myers' difficulties in 1998, envision him being the left-handed setup man for Shaw.

Grudzielanek and Gomez, primarily shortstops, are eligible for salary arbitration. Gomez is considered a better fielder than Grudzielanek, who committed 33 errors last season, and he might be more cost-effective.

The Dodgers still would have a logjam at shortstop if they acquired Gomez because Jose Vizcaino is under contract for two more seasons, but Vizcaino has played third as well. The Dodgers' third base situation is unsettled because Malone has discussed trading veteran Bobby Bonilla to the Mets, and Adrian Beltre showed he was not ready to play in the big leagues during his rookie year in 1998.

ANGELS: Todd Stottlemyre, above, becomes the focus of a contract offer while the Red Sox re-energize their attempt to keep Mo Vaughn. Page 5

AWARD: The Cubs' Kerry Wood, above, is selected National League rookie of the year, narrowly edging the Rockies' Todd Helton in the balloting. Page 5

ELSEWHERE: Jim "Catfish" Hunter, above, who last week said he had lost strength in his arms and hands, confirms he has Lou Gehrig's disease. Page 5

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