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Angel in the outfield (cont.)

Posted: Thursday March 20, 2008 10:06AM; Updated: Friday March 21, 2008 11:20AM
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Cubs looking at center

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The Cubs are questioning the readiness of outfield prospect Felix Pie to the point where they are actively looking for a center fielder. Three possible options include Boston's Coco Crisp, Baltimore's Jay Payton and Texas' Marlon Byrd.

Pie is batting .256 (10-for-39) with two homers and the Cubs appear to be concerned about whether Pie can hit a top big-league fastball.

Crisp, who's also drawn interest for the A's, probably won't be traded until he gets on the field again and shows he's healthy.

Payton could come in a package deal with second baseman Brian Roberts, a headliner who's been discussed for weeks by the two teams. The Cubs reportedly have offered pitchers Sean Gallagher and Donald Veal, infielder Ronny Cedeno and a fourth young player for Roberts, a two-time All-Star. Orioles owner Peter Angelos has been reluctant to deal Roberts, a personal favorite, in the past; however, it's likely new Orioles GM Andy MacPhail is merely holding out for the best trade.

Byrd, who resurrected his career in Texas last year, has been mentioned in trade talks for Cubs outfielder Matt Murton. The Rangers have three other players capable of playing centerfield -- Josh Hamilton (an alltime talent who's trying to build on last year's big comeback is the likely starter), David Murphy, and Milton Bradley.

According to a Rangers person, Bradley is likely to begin the season as the club's DH as he recovers following knee surgery, and another person connected to the Rangers said Bradley might remain there for several weeks into the season. Texas, notoriously weak in the outfield in past years, has several other outfield options, such as Kevin Mench, Nelson Cruz, Jason Botts and Frank Catalanatto. Trading Byrd for Murton -- a switch of outfielders -- seems curious, anyway.

Crede looking like an average Joe

Joe Crede has hurt his chances to be traded by looking rusty in spring training. New Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand has been stumping for his former teammate from the 2005 world champion White Sox, but scouts aren't seeing the Crede who should have been the MVP of that year's World Series.

"He looks like he's still hurt,'' one scout said, referencing the back injury that limited Crede in 2007. It makes little sense for the Giants to trade one of their few prospects for a player who is a year from free agency. A Giants person agreed, saying, "It's only one year.'' Left unsaid was that the Giants are at least two years way from contending.

Spring renewals not a happy thing

Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, Rays outfielder B.J. Upton, Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young, and Pirates pitcher Ian Snell were among the young and talented players whose contracts were renewed recently.

In figures filed yesterday and obtained by SI.com, Francoeur will receive a $460,000 salary, Upton will receive $412,200 (and $232,140 pro-rated for any time he may be in the minors in his split contract) and Young $406,00 (and $228,00 if he's in the minors).

As for Snell, the Pirates must have found some money lying around. After originally renewing him for $435,000, they signed him to a three-year, $8.6-million contract with options for 2011 and 2012 that could make the deal worth $24.6 million.

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