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Trade Winds Blow in AL East

Yankees get Boone from Reds, Red Sox pick up Suppan from Pirates. Giants add 14-game winner Ponson. Mariners stand pat, angering Nelson.

August 01, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

New York Yankee Manager Joe Torre was in the team hotel at Boston last weekend when he encountered a man and a woman in an elevator.

"The guy said, 'We're Red Sox fans, and if it was between catching Saddam Hussein and beating the Yankees, I'd take beating the Yankees,' " Torre said.

Such is the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees, longtime adversaries who are waging yet another pitched battle for American League East supremacy this summer, while general managers Theo Epstein (Boston) and Brian Cashman (New York) spiced things up this week.

After bolstering their bullpen with earlier deals for left-hander Scott Sauerbeck and right-hander Scott Williamson, the Red Sox gave their rotation a much-needed boost Thursday by trading for Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Suppan, a reliable innings-eater who has won his last five starts, three complete games and two shutouts.

The Yankees countered by acquiring All-Star third baseman Aaron Boone and reliever Gabe White in separate deals with the Cincinnati Reds, this after trading for relievers Armando Benitez and Jesse Orosco and dealing disgruntled right fielder Raul Mondesi to Arizona.

So, who got the best of whom?

"I really think the Red Sox did great," an American League scout said. "They got another solid starter, they got help in the bullpen. I still feel the Yankees' biggest problem is right field. Karim Garcia is not going to get it done. That's their weakness. Both teams have helped themselves ... but I think the Red Sox really helped themselves. I would say they might have the edge."

Ditto for San Francisco in the National League West. Not that the Giants needed help to win the division -- their 12 1/2-game lead going into Thursday was the largest advantage they've had since Sept. 18, 1917 -- but San Francisco boosted its World Series hopes by acquiring Baltimore ace Sidney Ponson for young pitchers Damian Moss and Kurt Ainsworth and a minor league pitcher, probably the most significant of the six deals made Thursday before the nonwaiver trading deadline.

Ponson, who was 14-6 with a 3.77 earned-run average, is expected to be a two-month rental for the Giants after turning down a three-year, $15-million contract offer from the Orioles, but the right-hander teams with Jason Schmidt to give San Francisco a formidable one-two postseason pitching punch.

"You've got to give them a lot of credit," the scout said of the Giants. "They're in a tough financial situation, but [GM Brian Sabean] gets stuff done all the time. They got a front-line pitcher and gave up a No. 4 guy [Moss] and a prospect [Ainsworth] who hasn't put it all together.

"If you're going to win and you're that close and you have a chance to get a proven major leaguer for prospects -- and you don't really know if the prospects are going to make it or not -- then you have to go for it."

Unless you're the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners, who stood pat at the trading deadline for the fourth consecutive year. Seattle leads Oakland by four games, but the A's made a significant move Wednesday, acquiring slugging outfielder Jose Guillen from the Reds, while the Mariners fell short in bids for Boone, St. Louis outfielder J.D. Drew and Boston outfielder Trot Nixon.

"The ownership isn't just showing the players in here they don't want to make a move; they're showing the fans they don't want to make a move," Seattle reliever Jeff Nelson told reporters after Thursday's victory over Detroit. "The fans come here to the greatest facility in the world and support this team unbelievably. They deserve more than, 'OK, we stood pat again.' "

The Mariners drew 3 million fans in 2002, they've already surpassed 2 million fans this season, and they rank second to the Yankees in broadcast revenue. They are one of a few teams that actually make money -- for the past two years, Mariner employees have received profit-sharing bonuses -- but they are reluctant to add to their $92-million payroll or part with the prospects required in some deals.

Seattle thought it had Boone -- the brother of Mariner second baseman Bret Boone -- in a three-way deal that would have sent Seattle right-hander Freddy Garcia to Boston, but Cincinnati balked at the Red Sox's offer of left-hander Casey Fossum.

The payroll-slashing Reds, who traded away $9 million in contracts this week, instead turned to the Yankees, who were willing to part with top prospect Brandon Claussen, a left-hander who was expected to be part of New York's rotation next season, minor league pitcher Charlie Manning and $1 million.

The Yankees then traded third baseman Robin Ventura to the Dodgers to make way for Aaron Boone, who was hitting .273 with 18 home runs and a team-high 65 runs batted in and had mixed emotions about the deal.

"It's been probably one of the most hectic, crazy weeks of my life," Boone said, alluding to Monday's firings of his father, Red Manager Bob Boone, and GM Jim Bowden and the dismantling of the roster.

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