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White Sox send Loaiza to Yanks for Contreras

Updated: Sunday August 1, 2004 12:56AM
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  Esteban Loaiza
Esteban Loaiza went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA last season and finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting.
AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York Yankees wound up adding an All-Star pitcher after all.

Not Randy Johnson -- but not bad, either.

Just one minute before baseball's 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Yankees acquired 20-game winner Esteban Loaiza from the Chicago White Sox for enigmatic right-hander Jose Contreras and $3 million Saturday.

"The deal was done, but the paperwork didn't go through until 3:59," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "That's when the fax went through -- and I have proof of that."

Loaiza gives the AL East-leading Yankees some stability on an aging staff that has struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness at times this season. New York wanted Johnson, but Cashman said the Yankees never got close to a deal with Arizona.

Cashman did land Loaiza, who made his second straight All-Star appearance this year. The 32-year-old right-hander is 9-5 with a 4.86 ERA in 21 starts. Last season for the White Sox, he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and was runner-up to Roy Halladay in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

"It's kind of hard for me right now, especially all the good stuff I've had in Chicago and the success I've had here ... but the Yankees are the Yankees," said Loaiza, who can become a free agent after this season. "It's a big shock for me. Right now, it's sadness. But I'll look forward to excitement in New York."

Contreras was wildly inconsistent for New York since signing a $32 million, four-year contract after defecting from Cuba in October 2002. And he struggled mightily against the rival Boston Red Sox -- a sure way to get shipped out of the Bronx.

"This one gained steam rather quickly. This deal started probably about 10:30 or 11 o'clock," Cashman said. "Jose Contreras has a great deal of upside, but Loaiza was valuable for us and what we're trying to accomplish. We're looking for more consistency right now. Our bullpen needs that. Our rotation needs that."

Contreras was hit hard in his last two starts and is 8-5 with a 5.64 ERA in 18 games this season. Overall, the right-hander was 15-7 with a 4.64 ERA for New York. He had 154 strikeouts in 36 games -- 27 starts.

Contreras has often flashed a nasty splitter, and Chicago obviously likes his potential. The White Sox entered the day in second place in the AL Central, four games behind first-place Minnesota.

"Jose is a pitcher we have pursued for some time," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "Adding a pitcher of Jose's caliber gives us a solid starting rotation for the remainder of this season and into the future."

Cashman characterized Contreras as sad when informed about the possibility of a deal Saturday, but the pitcher agreed to waive his no-trade clause anyway -- at about 3:50 p.m.

Cashman called manager Joe Torre in the dugout to tell him about the trade during the eighth inning of New York's 6-4 victory over Baltimore, but Contreras was gone by the time the clubhouse opened to reporters.

"I expected to see him when I came back in here, but evidently he didn't want to be around," Torre said.

Contreras was reunited with his wife and children when they defected from Cuba last month, and the Yankees hoped that would help him on the mound.

But he was roughed up by Boston in a nationally televised game at Fenway Park last Sunday, then lost 9-1 to Baltimore on Thursday.

Contreras is expected to make his first start for Chicago on Tuesday against Kansas City. He had been slated to start for the Yankees against Oakland on Wednesday, which is where Loaiza could be slotted in.

"They've had a full-court press on me for Contreras all year long, and when they called this morning, his name came up again," Cashman said. "We were prepared to go with what we have. We were prepared to stand pat unless something came along that really made sense."

Cashman said Contreras has about $17 million remaining on his contract.

Notes: With 1B Jason Giambi on the 15-day disabled list while he receives treatment for a benign tumor, the Yankees are close to signing former AL batting champion John Olerud, who was released by Seattle on July 23.

© 2004 SportsTicker Enterprises, LP

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