1) Florida Marlins. The world championship flag that is usually raised on Opening Day has been replaced by a white one. Since winning the title on Oct. 26, Florida has dumped seven players by trade, release or the expansion draft without obtaining a single major leaguer in return. It received nothing for Tony Saunders, a 23-year-old lefthander who started Game 4 of the World Series and was plucked by Tampa Bay with the draft's No. 1 pick. Alex Fernandez will probably be lost for the season with a torn rotator cuff, and Brown and Al Leiter almost certainly will be traded, leaving 22-year-old Livan Hernandez as the Marlins' most experienced starting pitcher. The sell-off hasn't stopped Florida from raising ticket prices, though. Plenty of good seats are still available.
2) Montreal Expos. Pavano is a terrific prospect, but general manager Jim Beattie came up short of his original asking price of three top young players for Martinez, a Cy Young winner who's in his prime. Lansing's departure also upholds the fine placement record of Expos University: After five years Montreal players graduate to better jobs.
3) Houston Astros. The only team to lose three 1997 big leaguers in the expansion draft: promising outfielder Bob Abreu and relievers Tom Martin, a southpaw who allowed one extra-base hit to a lefthander in 56 innings all year, and Russ Springer, who struck out 74 batters in 55⅓ innings.
On the Fence
1) Los Angeles Dodgers. They exposed three starting infielders to the draft (Young, Eric Karros and Todd Zeile) and lost none of them, which can be viewed as good and bad news. Their offense is intact, but they will still have to pay Karros and Zeile $7.6 million next year, and they haven't opened up a spot for talented minor league first baseman Paul Konerko. One move that would make L.A. a winner would be getting Mark Grudzielanek from Montreal to solve its shortstop dilemma.
2) Detroit Tigers. Thanks to realignment, they improved their playoff chances simply by moving from the American League East, where they finished 19 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, to the AL Central, where they would have been only seven games behind Cleveland. They nearly pulled off a trade for Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams before New York got cold feet, but they still must make a deal to strengthen themselves if they hope to catch the Indians.
3) Chicago White Sox. They have no proven replacements for shortstop Ozzie Guillen, whose option they declined to pick up, or catcher Jorge Fabregas, whom Arizona drafted. The draft also cost the Sox pitching prospect Chris Clemons, 25, and the peripatetic McElroy, whose trade value is indisputable. Of course, Opening Day still is miles away. Happy motoring.